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The Islamic Ceilings of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo - Other Views -

Availability: Forthcoming
Published: 2022
Page #: xvi + 432
Size: 9 x 12
ISBN: 978-1-56859-368-5
plates, appendix, bibliography, index, references

Quick Overview

The Cappella Palatina’s place within the history of art is unique for it represents the visual amalgamation of three distinct cultures. The chapel combines a Latin basilica plan with a Byzantine central plan where the domed sanctuary and the walls of the nave and aisles are covered with Byzantine mosaics, but the ceilings of the nave and aisles are distinctly Islamic.




The provenance of the craftsmen and artists who constructed and painted the ceilings has remained a question of speculation among scholars for more than a century and a half. Most contend the artists and craftsmen were imported from other areas of the Islamic world. Here the author questions long-accepted scholarly paradigms to consider the possibility that the central ceiling’s construction and its painting are Sicilian innovations that were fostered and developed while the island was under Islamic rule (ca. 831–1072).




The second issue explored by the author is the meaning of the ceiling’s construction and program of decoration, one that expresses the marvels and wonders—the ‘ajā’ib—that is integral to Islamic thought and philosophy. The paintings comprise a visual manifestation of the oral traditions of the ancient Middle East and of the increasingly written documentation that occurred in the early Islamic period. In the Cappella Palatina they constitute a continuation of imagery that was used in the Muslim palaces of Palermo. They celebrate the worldly authority and magnificence of a highly cultured court and the myriad pleasures and duties of this royal majlis, and by extension, the Islamic vision of the heavenly realm.



author

Tom Klobe

Tom Klobe is professor emeritus of Islamic and medieval art history and also taught courses in museum studies at the University of Hawai‘i. During his 29-year tenure, he was also director of the University of Hawai‘i Art Gallery, and organized and designed over 200 exhibitions, five of which received the prestigious Print Casebooks: Best in Exhibition Design Award. He has authored or edited over 35 publications, including Exhibitions: Concept, Planning and Design published by the American Association of Museums Press (2012) and A Young American in Iran by Peace Corps Writers (2014). Klobe was named a Living Treasure of Hawai‘i (2005) and received the Preis Honor Award (2021), the University of Hawai‘i Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service (2003), and was honored by the Republic of France as a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for contributions to the arts in France and Hawai‘i (1999).

Klobe began research on the Cappella Palatina in 1972. He was the first to be granted permission to photograph the ceilings in color during the summers of 1973 and 1974 when he took over 3000 photos within the chapel and an additional 1000 photos of Norman art and architecture 
in Sicily. To understand the ceilings thoroughly he continued to conduct extensive comparative research and photography of the Islamic and medieval European worlds. This book attempts to present a nuanced view of issues surrounding the attributions and meanings of the ceilings that will hopefully spark further discussion of the ceilings and of the brilliance of the Muslim and Norman periods in Sicily.

Foreword by Abbas Daneshvari
Preface and Acknowledgements xxiii

History
Introduction 3
Muslim Conquest and rule 9
The Norman Period 15
On Supposition of Fatimid Origin of Artists 25
Cappella Palatina History 31
Construction and OrnamentationThe Central Nave 39
The Side Aisles 50

Meaning
Ideological Meanings 57
Inscriptions 69
Glossary of Arabic Terms 74
Inscriptions Surrounding the Stars 76
Inscriptions in the Semicircular Lunettes 85
Inscriptions in the Niches of the Third Level 88
Inscriptions in the Southern Aisle 91

Iconography
Trees and Vine Scrolls 95
Stars, Squares, and Domes 99
Pleasures of the Court 111
Seated Kings 113
Drinking Companions 121
Musicians 147
Dancers 185
Scenes of Daily Life 191
Christian Scenes 204
Presumed Wrestlers 211
Battle Scenes 216
The Hunt 224
Hares 233
Elephants 237
Deer, Ibexes, Gazelles, and Antelopes 241
Falcons, Hawks, and Eagles 253
Peacocks and Birds 269
Lions 281
Horseman Escaping Lion 291
Lion and Ungulate 292
Lions and Prey 295
Man Subduing Lions 299
Double-Bodied, One-Headed Lion 303
Triple-Bodied, One-Headed Lion 305
Winged Lions 307
Lion and Dragon Combat 309
Horseman Fighting Dragon 315
Scenes from Arab Literature 323
Mermaids 327
Griffins 329
Sphinxes 339
Harpies 341
Ascension Scenes 347
Man Straddling Headless Quadrupeds 351
Sun and Moon Chariots 353
Summary 356
Appendix 358
Medallions of the Side Aisles 396

Bibliography 397

Index 408

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