Thursday, January 6, 2011

Princely Ambition Personified

Just fyi, if anyone has any comments, you can do so even without a Blogspot account, I believe. :) Like I said on Facebook, comments/suggestions/ideas are super welcome!

So, we've seen an awful lot of painters thus far (and only one sculptor)! I really need to work that out.

So, let's try something completely different - Architecture!

Gur-i Mir ("Tomb of the Amir") - Samarqand, modern day Uzbekistan

This past semester, I took a class on Islamic Art and Architecture. It was the first class I had ever had like it, and I fell in love with it. Islamic architectural works are some of the most breathtaking, incredible structures I have ever seen. I only hope that some day I can see some of these structures in person. I'm sure you lovely readers will get to see some more of my favorite Islamic monuments in the future. (*coughTheAlhambracough*)

But why start with the Gur-i Mir? Simply, I thought it had some of the best "fun facts" with which to draw you all in. :)

The first part of the Gur-i Mir, the madrasa (school) and khanegah (monastery), was built between 1401 and 1403 by the grandson of Emperor Tamerlane, Muhammad Sultan. Tamerlane, known as Timur in Persian history, was the head of the Timurid (Clever) dynasty and claimed lineage to Chengiz Khan. In the footsteps of the great Mongol conqueror, Timur set out to create a "world empire," successfully conquering the Mamluks and Ottomans to the west. His conquest was cut short with his death in 1506, however, on his way to invade empires to the East (namely, China) so he could reunite the Mongol empire. Timur himself was a great patron of the arts, but simultaneously brought a great amount of destruction wherever he went.

The Gur-i Mir complex was begun by Muhammad Sultan, but the heir apparent died suddenly and ended up being buried in the mausoleum Timur built in 1404 as a result. Timur was also later buried there. Along with the Shah-i Zinda ("The Living King") Necropolis, also in Samarqand, the Gur-i Mir acted as a principal resting place for members of the Timurid dynasty.

The Gur-i Mir is the epitome of Timurid architecture. Everything is on a monumental scale - After all, if Timur had to be the best (and he did), his constructions had to reflect his great power. The ribbed, double dome is a brilliant turquoise and sits on an elongated drum, or the space between a dome and its base. The exterior of the building is heavily decorated in blue, white, and yellow tiles in a combination of hazarbaf (decorative brickwork), bana'i, and haft rang ("Seven Colors," applying enamel on tile) techniques. The interior is no exception. The interior is a wealth of pattern in red, blue, and gold with muqarnas ("honeycomb" constructions that build upwards) ceilings (Pictured below).

And those "fun facts" I mentioned :)?

- The epitaph of Timur is made of nephrite (dark green) jade and is the largest, all-in-one-piece deposit of nephrite in the world.

- The lineage that Timur claims to Ghengiz Khan is actually through his favorite wife, Saray Mulk Khanum (The principal of 18 wives and 22 concubines). The "Khan" in her name indicates this connection. So, Timur's only connection to Ghengiz Khan is through marriage! (PS, ladies, woman had a great deal more power during this era...they were learned and patrons of their own great creations, such as the Bibi Khanum Mosque and tombs in Shah-i Zinda!)

- On the underside of Timur's epitaph it is written..."When I rise from the dead, the world will tremble." (Spooky!)

"I am not a man of blood; and God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity. - Emperor Tamerlane (Timur)

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