SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Three papers on Islamic Art in the 19th Century

Convened by Professor Anna Contadini

Date: 28 February 2013Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 28 February 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B111

Type of Event: Seminar

Anna McSweeney
The Afterlife of the Alhambra. Architectural revivals in the 19th century Middle East  

During the nineteenth century there was a vogue among the elite in Britain and the United States for creating Alhambra-style smoking rooms in domestic spaces. These were particularly modelled on the version of the Alhambra that had been popularised in the recent publications of Owen Jones. This fashion for an ‘exotic’ space is perhaps unsurprising in a western context; but the Alhambra style also became popular in the cities of the Middle East. In Cairo for example, an Alhambra-style palace was built on Gezirah island to house European monarchs attending the Suez Canal opening celebrations in 1869. This paper examines why and how this medieval palace in Granada was such a potent source of inspiration for architects and patrons of the nineteenth-century Middle East.

Melanie Gibson
Colouring the surface: a taste for 'Persian' tiles in English domestic architecture, 1860-1910

Ceramic tableware and tiles from the Islamic world, first seen at a series of international exhibitions held in London and other European capital cities in the second half of the 19th century, had a transformative effect on English domestic production. Designers were inspired by the objects themselves, generally assumed to be Persian, as well as by design books with colour illustrations. This new taste for brightly coloured tiles was both encouraged and satisfied by the products of newly-founded industrial tile manufacturers such as Minton Hollins, and Maw & Co., as well as the craftsman-designer William de Morgan. This paper will trace the history of this development and explore to what extent the Victorian tiles were direct copies of Islamic examples or were simply decorated in an ‘orientalising’ style.

George Manginis
Iznik in Athens: Ottoman-style tile revetments on inter-war public buildings in Greece

The early part of the twentieth century witnessed an intensification of nationalistic sentiment in the Balkans; the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire shifted state boundaries and resulted in population movements. Armenian and Greek potters working at Kütahya since the nineteenth century in an Iznik-revival style had to relocate all over the Balkans. The major move to Greece after 1922 resulted in the foundation of pottery factories which continued this tradition in the shapes and decoration of their wares. Their principal commissions were Ottoman-style tile revetments for buildings, among them several friezes for the Greek Parliament (the Old Palace in Athens) and for newly-erected banks. The latter fashion may at first seem surprising but a careful reading of the buildings and the politics of the time reveals a fascinating historical and cultural context.