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R. Stephen Humphreys Distinguished Visiting Scholar

Gülru Necipoğlu
Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
Harvard University


Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 4:00pm
HSSB 6020 (IHC McCune Conference Room)

Transregional Connections:
Architectural Monuments and the Construction of Early Modern Islamic Empires

Focusing on the 16th and 17th centuries, this lecture presents comparative reflections on the architectural cultures of the Mediterranean-based Ottomans, the Safavids in Iran, and the Mughals in the Indian subcontinent, with an aim to highlight transregional interactions and intercrossings. From such a perspective, the tri-continental landmass dominated by these three early modern empires can be conceptualized as an interconnected contact zone. The premise of the lecture is that in the realm of architectural culture, the physical, mental, and social spaces interrelate and overlap with one another. The intimate connection between empire building and architectural construction is exemplified by the differing socio-religious and palatial building types favored in each of the three centralizing empires as expressions of distinctive theories of dynastic legitimacy. By emphasizing the deliberateness of these choices, the lecture challenges prevailing assumptions about an unmediated and self-propelled evolution of regional architectural and ornamental forms in the early modern era.

Gülru Necipoğlu has been the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University's Department of History of Art and Architecture since 1993, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1986. She is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Archittettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza. 

She specializes in the architectural and urban history of the medieval and early modern periods, with a particular focus on the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean basin, and the Eastern Islamic lands. Her publications address artistic exchanges between Byzantium, Renaissance Italy, and the Islamic lands, questions of pre-modern architectural practice, plans and drawings, the aesthetics of abstract ornament and geometric design. Her critical interests encompass methodological and historiographical issues in modern constructions of the field of Islamic art.

She is the editor of Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World and its Supplements. Her books include Architecture, Ceremonial Power: The Topkapi Palace (1991); The Topkapi Scroll, Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (1995); and The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (2005). Her Topkapi Scroll won the Albert Hourani and the Spiro Kostoff book awards. The Age of Sinan has been awarded the Fuat Köprülü Book Prize.

More recently she edited The Arts of Ornamental Geometry: A Persian Compendium on of Similar and Complementary Interlocking Figures (in Supplements to Muqarnas, 2017). With Barry Flood she co-edited the two-volume reader, A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, published in 2017 in the Wiley Blackwell Companions to Art History series. In 2016 she co-edited with Alina Payne, Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local (Princeton University Press).

Sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies, R. Stephen Humphreys Distinguished Lecture Series





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