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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Art and Architecture of Egypt and Syria 13th to 16th Centuries

Course Code:
15PARC033
Status:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
1
Taught in:
Full Year

The course deals with selected topics on Islamic art and archaeology of the period 1300-1800 AD, including both the central and more peripheral regions of the Islamic world. These are intended to give a broad coverage of some of the later cultures of Islam, their painting, minor arts, and the documentary evidence for them and their development in architectural decoration. 

It focuses on Mamluk Art and art patronage in Egypt and Syria (1250-1517), and also on architecture history and the relationship between the metropolitan style in Cairo and the regional styles in Syria (Damascus, Aleppo, Tripoli) and in Egypt itself. The course will also deal with the decorative arts as an aspect of Mamluk princely patronage. 

In alternating years, a course on Ottoman art will be offered. Both courses will provide students of an overview of Later Islamic art, but each with a different emphasis. Topics include:

  • Mamluk architecture and urban aesthetics in Cairo; 
  • the architecture of al-Zahir Baybars and al-Mansur Qalawun (Cairo); 
  • the architecture of al-Nasir Muhammad and his sons in 14th century Cairo; 
  • early Mamluk architecture in 
    • Syria,
    • Damascus, 
    • Aleppo, 
    • Tripoli; 
  • the early 15th century in Cairo; 
  • the late 15th century in Cairo; 
  • late Mamluk architecture in Syria; 
  • Mamluk buildings in the Egyptian province; 
  • patronage of the decorative arts in Egypt and Syria; 
  • the continuity of Mamluk art in Ottoman Egypt and Syria.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The course deals with selected topics on Islamic art and archaeology of the period 1300-1800 AD, including both the central and more peripheral regions of the Islamic world. These are intended to give a broad coverage of some of the later cultures of Islam, their painting, minor arts, and the documentary evidence for them and their development in architectural decoration.

The objective is to teach the students the art of the Mamluks in Egypt and Syria (1250-1517) and the mechanisms of Mamluk patronage of the arts. Upon completion of the course the students should know the history of Mamluk architecture in Cairo according to the secondary literature available and be acquainted with the relationship between the metropolitan style in Cairo and the regional styles in Syria (Damascus, Aleppo, Tripoli, Jerusalem). They should also be familiar with the decorative arts as an aspect of Mamluk princely patronage, and be acquainted with the collection of the British Museum (a visit is included in the course). They should be equipped to interpret ground plans and elevations, to discuss the various theories and interpretations published the subject and to know where to look for primary sources for advanced research.

Courses are taught in lecture/ seminar format, requiring active preparation and participation by students.

Method of assessment

2 essays of 5,000 words each = 75%, slide test =25%

Suggested reading

  • E. Atil, Renaissance of Islam – the arts of the Mamluks, Washington/DC 1981.
  • D. Behrens Abouseif, Cairo of the Mamluks: a history of the architecture and its culture, London 2007.
  • L.A. Mayer, Saracenic heraldry – a survey, Oxford 1933.
  • J.M. Rogers, “Evidence for Mamluk-Mongol relations”, Colloque International sur l’histoire du Caire (1969), Cairo 1972, 385-403.