Gülru Necipo¿lu: The Saray Albums of Istanbul and Berlin Reconsidered in Light of Images in the 'Frankish Manner'

Evening lecture

The Saray Albums in Istanbul and Berlin have largely been examined to trace the development of the Perso-Islamic arts of the book between the fourteenth and late fifteenth century. This perspective has emphasized the revitalization of the Persianate painting tradition by an infusion of Chinese elements in the post-Mongol era throughout the Eastern Islamic lands. Consequently, the Europeanizing images of the albums have received only scant or no attention, giving rise to an asymmetry that can perhaps be justified by the much larger proportion of Chinese and Sinicizing works contained in them. Yet the tendency to overlook images affiliated with the Western European tradition has skewed the "world picture" encompassed by these albums, which hints at a more expansive global outlook. That outlook originated in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, when Europe and China were brought into contact with one another by the 'Pax Mongolica', whose cultural repercussions continued to be felt long thereafter. This lecture aims to rectify the imbalance in previous scholarship by reconsidering one of the Saray Albums at the Topkapı Palace Library (H. 2153) along with the Diez Albums in Berlin in light of their largely unpublished Europeanizing images, datable to from the late fourteenth to the early or mid fifteenth century. Referred to by attributive inscriptions as works in the Frankish manner ('kār-i farang' / 'firang'), these ink drawings, often highlighted in colored wash, complement the more numerous works of the albums in the Cathayan (Northern Chinese) manner ('kār-i khatāy' / 'khitāy').

Gülru Necipoğlu has been Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art at Harvard University since 1993 where she earned her PhD in 1986. She specializes in the medieval and early modern periods, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean basin and Eastern Islamic lands. She is the editor of Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World and Supplements to Muqarnas. Her books include Architecture, Ceremonial Power: The Topkapi Palace (1991); The Topkapi Scroll, Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (1995); and The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (2005). Her Topkapi Scroll won the Albert Hourani and the Spiro Kostoff book awards. The Age of Sinan has been awarded the Fuat Köprülü Book Prize. She is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Archittettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza. Her articles include interpretations of monuments such as the Dome of the Rock, Suleymaniye Mosque and Topkapi Palace; Ottoman visual culture; comparative studies on the three early modern Islamic empires (Safavid, Mughal, Ottoman); and artistic exchanges between Byzantium, Renaissance Italy, and the Islamic lands. Her publications also address questions of pre-modern architectural practice, plans and drawings, the aesthetics of abstract ornament and geometric design. Her critical interests encompass methodological and historiographical issues in modern constructions of the field of Islamic art.

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