February 25, 2013

Antiquities of Samarkand. Shir Dar Madrasah. Plan, Elevation, and Sections

This plan, section, and elevation of the Shir Dar Madrasah in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. In the center of Samarkand is the Registan ensemble, composed of three major examples of a madrasah (religious school). The earliest Registan madrasah was built in 1417-20 by the scholar-king Ulugh Beg, grandson of Timur. The second example, the Shir Dar Madrasah, was built in 1619-36, during the Bukhara Ashtrakhanid dynasty. The form of this madrasah is typical for Central Asia: an imposing portal (iwan, or vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) leads to a rectangular courtyard enclosed by a two-story arcade containing rooms for some 100 students. The rectangle was bounded by four minarets and four ribbed domes over instruction halls at the corners. On the opposite side from the portal is a domed mosque. Each of the four sides has an arched portal covered with ceramic work. Although Shir Dar and its minarets sustained damage in this active seismic zone, the structure was relatively well preserved.

February 27, 2013

Get Out! The Indies Must be Liberated

This 1945 recruiting poster by the Dutch artist Nico Broekman shows a Japanese soldier being booted from the island of Bali, and the caption, “Get Out! The Indies Must Be Liberated.” During World War II, Japan occupied the Dutch East Indies in early 1942. After the surrender, a large number of Dutch submarines and some aircraft escaped to Australia and continued to fight as part of Australian units. In the course of the war, Indonesian nationalists supported by the Japanese took over parts of the country. Allied troops invaded Borneo in July 1945, bringing with them a restoration of Dutch colonial rule. The Dutch fought the Indonesian nationalists for the next four years, before finally granting independence in 1949. The poster is from the collections of the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden.

Bathing Room in the Women's Quarter of the Makassarese Village Near Master Cornelis in Batavia

This 1945 photograph shows women and children bathing at the Kampong Makassar internment camp near Batavia (present-day Jakarta) during World War II. After the Dutch East Indies fell to Japanese forces in 1942, many Dutch residents were forced into internment camps, where they stayed until the end of the war. At Kampong Makassar, which operated from January to August 1945, more than 3,600 women and children were held in a space measuring less than one square kilometer. The photograph is from the collections of the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden.

February 28, 2013

Prayers for Safety and Success

This calligraphic fragment includes verses in Persian praying for the patron's personal well-being and the prosperity of his kingdom. The verses read: "May the world be (your) fortune and the firmament (your) friend / May the World-Creator (God) protect (you) / May all your works be successful / May God of the World look after you / May your heart and your kingdom be collected and well-frequented / May division stay far away from your realm." The verses are executed in black nasta'liq script on beige paper. They are framed by cloud bands and placed on a gold background decorated with vine motifs and blue flowers. Salmon and blue borders decorated with gold-painted flowers and leaves frame the text panel, which is pasted to a larger blue sheet decorated with gold bouquets. The entire fragment is backed by cardboard for strengthening purposes. The upper right triangle of the text panel includes an ornamental blue finial, the lower left triangular panel the signature of the calligrapher, Mir 'Ali, who designates himself as "the poor" (al-faqir). Mir 'Ali Heravi (died 1543 [951 AH]), a calligrapher in nasta'liq script, was active in the city of Herat (Afghanistan) during the 16th century until he was taken to Bukhara (Uzbekistan) in 1528-9 (935 AH) by the Shaybanid ruler 'Ubaydallah Khan Uzbek.

Three Bayts (Verses) to a Loved One

This calligraphic fragment includes three bayts (verses) of poetry in the main text panel and ten verses around this panel, creating a textual frame decorated with gold vine and leaf motifs. The entire calligraphic piece is pasted to a paper decorated with blue geometric and vegetal motifs highlighted in gold. The central text panel is topped by an illuminated rectangular panel and includes a decorative triangle in the upper left corner. The verses in the central panel are written in nasta'liq script on a white ground decorated with gold flowers. The verses read: "Why set out to the Ka'ba when the Ka'ba is your home? / The Sacred Enclosure of my Ka'ba is the threshold to your soil. / The bewitchment of your eye captures the territory of hearts, / Now all the people of the world tell your story. / How can I bring out from (my) heart the imagination of your garnet (lips)? / Because in the treasury of the heart there are many marks of you." By drawing on the imagery of Mecca, the Ka'ba, and its Sacred Enclosure (harim), the poet describes his affection for his beloved's eyes and lips in terms of a pilgrimage into his heart. The verses are signed by the writer (al-katib) Mir 'Ali (died 1543 [951 AH]), a master calligrapher who was active in Herat (Afghanistan) and Bukhara (Uzbekistan) during the 16th century.