Birdhouse on the Ayazma Camii Mosque. Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Celalettin Güneş
The photo above is a two centuries old birdhouse crafted with the same care and skill as the stonework of Ayazma Camii (Holy Spring) Mosque on which it clings.
The charters for new mosques often included provision for feeding the birds that lived in these shelters. The Beyazit II mosque in Istanbul, built in the late 15th century, had a charter that allocated 30 pieces of gold each year to look after its birds. Even when the charter was eventually revoked in the 1920s the official then in charge of the mosque continued to feed them out of his own salary until 1947. In the great Dolmabahce Palace there’s a room that was devoted to looking after sick and injured birds.
Fazil Husnu Daglarca, the famous Turkish poet, relates how a man in Sivas used the income from two shops to look after the city’s birds, and all across turkey you come across similar endowments. In Islam there’s a tradition, at least there used to be, of endowments for everything from poor kitchens, fountains, homes for widows and alms for orphans to trousseaus for poor girls and books for libraries and colleges. Endowments providing water and grain to birds and other animals were just a part of this enlightened attitude.
You can also see more photos on a recent post at Islamic Arts and Architecture.
Hat tip (again) to Dr. Stephennie Mulder.
Pierced globe Incense Burner, Mamluk period (1250–1517), late 13th–early 14th century. Syria, Damascus. British Museum.
Zayn al-Din. Incense Burner or Handwarmer. 15th – 16th c. gilded brass with silver inlay. Walters Art Museum.
Knowing my interests, my friend and remarkable scholar, Dr. Stephennie Mulder sent me the image of the gimbaled censer above. The link to the British Museum (which seems to be dead now) stated that the gimbals keep the incense cup from spilling its contents while swinging but this seems overly fussy to me considering the centrifugal forces of swinging itself solve that problem.
Another site suggested that these type of censers were used in games and rolled from one guest to another. I suppose this would work if it were a very low impact game but any amount of velocity or impact and I think the host’s carpet would suffer some damage from errant embers.
The description of “hand warmer” makes a lot more sense to me. In this case the mechanism would function perfectly. Unfortunately, I can’t confirm that the Walters object is also gimbaled though it must have some kind of suspension for without it the orb would certainly be too hot handle with bare hands.
All these pragmatic issues aside, both of these objects are virtuosic expressions of master metal smiths and are a delight to they eyes. What a pleasure it would also be to hold one of these in my hands!
A continuation of yesterday’s post; this from the interior. The translation below starts on the south wall with breaks for each facet of the octagon.
Spandrel from the interior octagonal arcade showing the Kufic inscription band thought to be the oldest surviving sample of Quranic Arabic writing. This excerpt reads, “He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He has power over all things.”
image © Said Nuseibeh
In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate. Unto Him belongeth sovereignity and unto Him belongeth praise. He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He has power over all things. Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger.
Lo! God and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. The blessing of God be on him and peace be on him, and may God have mercy. O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion
nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease! (it is)
better for you! – God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And God is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a
servant unto God, nor will the favoured angels. Whoso scorneth His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him. Oh God, bless Your Messenger and Your servant Jesus
son of Mary. Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary, (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befitteth not (the Majesty of) God that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him!
When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. Lo! God is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the right path. God (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witness). Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him,
the Almighty, the Wise. Lo! religion with God (is) Islam. Those who (formerly) received the Book differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning!
translation via Islamic Awareness
And more visions of Muslim art through the lens of Western film.
In 1940 the The Thief of Bagdad won the Academy Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction and Special Effects and was nominated for Original Music Score.
I have such a soft spot for these huge studio films of old. Though the full film is below, it is cued to the scene where the flying horse is assembled before being piloted through the sky.