Head from a Figure with a Beaded Headdress

Object Name: Head of a figure

Date: 12th–early 13th century

Geography: Attributed to Iran

Medium: Fossiliferous limestone; carved, drilled

Dimensions: H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
D. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm)

Classification: Stone

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1933

Accession Number: 33.111

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 453
Although three-dimensional figurative sculptures were made from the beginnings of Islamic art, this head, perhaps part of a full-sized figure, represents a rare example of such sculpture from the Seljuq period. Carved in stone, this head features an enigmatic smile that sets it apart from the average figural production of this period, much of which was made of stucco and with a more standardized and solemn expression. The maker of this object was clearly highly skilled, as evidenced by the naturalistic depiction of its Central Asian face, the stylized hair locks that form an ornament, and the elaborately jeweled headdress.

Nine Stucco Figures and One Fragment from Iran (MMA nos. 67.119, 57.51.18, 33.11, 42.25.17, and 2014.529, Victoria and Albert Museum nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928, Linden-Museum Stuttgart no. A 37.662 L, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London no. MXD 12, Philadelphia Museum of Art no. 1940-51-1)

These nine figures are believed to derive from a royal context.[1] As suggested by their iconography—jeweled headdresses, arms, rich vestments—and by similar images found in situ, they were probably meant to decorate the walls of the reception areas of palatine complexes, where they typically flanked or faced the enthronement area. They most likely represented the personal guard, the viziers or amirs, and the courtiers of a sovereign, be it the Seljuq sultan or one of his local vassals or successors. In their regality and power, these figures convey the very essence of rulership and authority in the visual arts of the Great Seljuqs and their successor states.

These sovereigns are not known to have been portrayed in their time, in any medium (though they appear in later paintings illustrating their history (see cats. 2a–c, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, nos. 1952.51.9, 1983.94.6 and 1965.51.5). Their rulership was expressed and extolled via their names and titles, minted on coins or inscribed on the buildings commissioned by them or their subjects. To symbolize the authority of rulers, the visual vocabulary of the eleventh century employed depictions of their guards of honor holding weapons and, in the following century, of their amirs or viziers holding insignia of office. In addition, representations of courtiers, including musicians and dancers, evoked the luxury of the ruler’s court.

The lack of historical inscriptions on surviving stucco figures themselves or of sources disclosing their meaning has led some scholars to question the identity of the larger standing ones (e.g. MMA nos. 67.119 and 57.51.18)— variably understood as royal guards, princely figures, and even a Nestorian priestess—as well as their connection to the court. However, similar depictions in wall paintings and stone bas-reliefs in coeval royal buildings support their interpretation as the ruler’s personal guard of honor (Persian ghulaman-i khassagi, Arabic al-ghilman al-khassa) or his viziers/amirs.[2] The earliest occurrence of such imagery is in the Ghaznavid palace at Lashkari Bazar (mid-11th century), where club-wielding militia men in ceremonial attire, all unbearded and probably Turkish ghulams (here, slave servants or guards), appear in a wall painting positioned so as to face the ruler in his main reception hall (fig. 26 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]).[3]

Other portrayed personages to have been thus interpreted assume a frontal stance that is even more similar to that of the stucco ones (MMA nos. 67.119, 57.51.18; V&A nos. A20-1928, A21-1928): those on carved marbles from Ghazni (11th–early 12th century), each holding a club (e.g. fig. 27 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]); and those carved in stone on the bridge of Hisn Kayfa (probably mid-12th century; figs. 15, 16 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]) and in the niche from a palatine structure at Sinjar (Gu’ Kummet, early 13th century), holding an array of objects (fig. 30 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]).[4] Each of these objects—maces, bows, curved swords, birds, poles, polo sticks, cups, and napkins—symbolized a specific post at court. They were granted to the ghulams who were closer to the sovereign and would have been a constant presence at royal ceremonies.

The Gu’ Kummet niche is thought to have been the actual seat of the patron in his reception hall, which clarifies that such depictions reproduced and boosted actual ceremonials in the very setting in which they took place. Moreover, it supports a direct association with royal authority for the other examples mentioned above. Such fully dressed figures were not meant to depict the ruler, as indicated by the reiteration of the personages and their identical or differentiated attributes. Rather, they symbolized the ruler’s prerogative and possession, and they served to enact his presence, expressing his authority and prestige.[5]

Nevertheless, the stucco examples, which are known individually and detached from their original context, have sometimes been interpreted as princely on account of their jeweled headdresses. But rather than royal crowns, the latter are kulahs, the distinctive headgear, sometimes encrusted with silver and gold, worn by the Turkish guards of the Ghaznavids and Seljuqs and indicative of their rank.[6] The use of metal-encrusted kulahs together with a distinctive belt (kamar) and robe (qaba) to denote military rank may be an innovation of the Seljuqs, for headdresses seem previously to have been more indicative of tribal affiliation and occupation.[7]

Two more examples closely related to this figure have a direct royal implication on account of their architectural context, in both cases the reception area of a small palace or pavilion. Most importantly, they also show the broader, multifaceted decorative program of a ruler’s reception hall. The first comes from the Qara Saray in Mosul (after A.H. 631/A.D. 1234; attributed to Badr al-Din Lu’lu’), where small nimbed stucco busts are accompanied by vegetal patterns, eagles and other birds, inscriptions, and a scroll terminating in animals’ and birds’ heads fig. 31 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]).[8] The second example, a painting in the reception pavilion at Samarqand (late 12th century), is even more relevant, as it shows a larger assortment of figures that vary in size depending on their role in the composition.[9] Such evidence also supports the hypothesis that the smaller gypsum-plaster figures in the group (V&A A20-1928 and A21-1928) could have formed part of a larger composition that included not only royal guards but also courtiers engaged in various activities.

The Samarqand wall paintings, the subject of ongoing archaeological study, include bands with animal processions (a snow leopard, a panther, and fantastic beasts), a winged figure, an eagle, a human-headed animal, medium-size humans, smaller dancers and horsemen, and inscriptions in Arabic and Persian, sometimes with birds in the field. The focal point of the room—that is, where the Qarakhanid ruler would have sat enthroned, overlooking the entire reception hall—was the suffa (a small iwan), which was itself further enhanced by flanking paintings of large standing figures. One, a guard or courtier holding an arrow, has been reconstructed from the four that were there originally. Also revealing is the discovery in a lateral wall of what appears to be a painting of a ruler—an arrow-wielding figure with a peculiar scaled-motif headdress, seated on a throne (figure 32 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]). Despite being smaller in size than the standing arrow bearer, he is surrounded by smaller figures, suggesting his supremacy.[10] While the figure’s identity will likely become clearer as on-site research continues, his position and dimensions provide a preliminary idea of the complexity of royal decorative programs.

The distribution of figures throughout the hall and their proportions offer a possible model for how the stucco figures were displayed in their original settings, with the larger ones positioned closer to the ruler, as royal guards, and the smaller ones (V&A A20-1928 and A21-1928) representing courtiers engaged in or spectating at different activities performed for the entertainment of the ruler. The suggestion that the larger stucco figures represent the ruler’s personal guards and amirs is lent further credence by painted manuscripts from the early and mid-thirteenth century: the Kitab al-diryaq (Book of Antidotes) and the Kitab al-aghani (Book of Songs) each contain images of an enthroned sovereign surrounded by guards and officers.[11] In addition, accounts of royal Mamluk palaces in Cairo report that the diwan (reception hall) bore images of the sultan and his amirs, with their rank.[12]

Among the extant images linked to royal authority, the standing figures show a chronological progression. The early Ghaznavid examples mentioned above assume exactly the same position, wear the same Turkmen-style belts and bags, and carry the same type of club (figs. 26, 27 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]). Later examples, however, became more differentiated over time, each carrying a different object or insignia and often wearing different headdresses (MMA nos. 67.119 and 57.51.18; figs. 28, 30 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]). This iconographic development may reflect the shift in status and position of court attendants, from less hierarchical Turkish ghulams in the mid-eleventh-century Ghaznavid state to more highly structured categories of attendants and amirs in the twelfth- and early thirteenth-century states ruled by the Seljuqs and their successors from Iran to Anatolia. During this period, former ghulam commanders first were appointed atabegs of young princes and then eventually established their own family successions.[13]

Concurrent with these changes, the depiction of royal attendants was no longer linked exclusively to rulership. Northwest of Mosul, the Royal Gate of the church of Mart Shmuni, in Bakhdida/Qaraqosh (early 13th century), displays a seated figure at center dominating two lions, with standing attendants in trefoil niches. The composition, though still evocative of power, takes on a protective meaning, guarding the gate that connects the nave to the sanctuary in a Syrian Orthodox church.[14] In about the mid-twelfth century, enthroned figures flanked by standing courtiers began to appear with frequency on inlaid metalwork and mina’i ceramics.(see cats. 37, 68, 155 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016] Although sophisticated, these objects were not a royal prerogative, as their extensive retrieval in urban sites attests, and therefore would have been widely accessible to the middle-class population. Such widespread diffusion may have diluted the potency of this royal imagery while maintaining a luxurious aura associated with courtly life.[15]

Stucco and Stone: Archaeological Evidence, Continuity of Traditions

The objects under examination here can be considered within the broader context of two uninterrupted architectural traditions in Iran and its neighboring regions: figural imagery and stucco decoration. The latter represents the seamless continuation into the Islamic period of Parthian and Sasanian carved and modeled stucco, especially well attested in Iran and the Jazira.[16] It was in the twelfth century, however, that a renewed use of stucco emerged: a large number of mihrabs and vegetal and inscribed panels of this period are known, from Transoxiana to eastern Afghanistan and Khurasan, and from the northern and central regions in Iran (where the large number of preserved stuccos allowed for the identification of a "Kashan school") to the Jazira (especially in the region of Mosul) and Anatolia.[17] They often show a more pronounced use of volume that would dramatically increase in the fourteenth century.[18]

As for the tradition of figural images in the decoration of buildings, examples in modeled and carved stucco comparable to these 10 figures are scarce compared with the rich evidence from the early Islamic periods, such as those from Chal Tarqan, Tepe Mel, and Nizamabad in Iran and from the Umayyad residential and agricultural complexes in the Syro-Palestinian region, in some cases, such as at Khirbat al-Mafjar, including three-dimensional, nearly freestanding figures.[19] Nevertheless, they attest to a tradition that was never completely abandoned. Friezes representing camels adorned the Abbasid palace in Samarra and, broadening our view farther westward to the Mediterranean, several human and animal depictions were excavated from the palace at Sabra al-Mansuriyya, in Tunisia (mid-10th to mid-11th century).[20]

Closer in geography and time to our figures—that is, from Khurasan and central Iran in the eleventh and twelfth centuries—are panels with fantastic creatures excavated at Termez; animals, from Khulbuk; two heads, one turbaned from Bishapur (fig. 33 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]) and one with a jeweled headdress from Nishapur; and a hawk attacking a duck see fig. 97 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]) and the hand of a large figure (Philadelphia Museum of Art no. 1940-51-1), both excavated at Rayy.[21] Westward, in the Mosul area, figural depictions in stucco occur in the early thirteenth century in a palatine context, namely the Qara Saray, as well as in Christian contexts. At the monastery of Mar Behnam, a stucco panel depicts the horse-mounted saint with angels, while another shows his sister, Mart Sara, in a standing frontal position (figs. 28, 29 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]).[22]

It is likely that the proliferation of stucco decoration in twelfth-century Iran galvanized the representation of figurative images in this medium as well. It was an impetus analogous in other media, for instance, the previously mentioned wall paintings in Lashkari Bazar and Samarqand, and also those in Khulbuk and Nishapur.[23]

As for stone, high-relief carvings such as MMA no. 33.111 are scarcely attested in the architectural decoration of Iran, where the few known examples are flat bas-reliefs. Stone carvings were widely employed in Anatolia, in the area of Mosul, and probably in Baghdad (for instance, the Talisman Gate). Additionally, a local white marble was used extensively in Ghazni, the Afghan capital of the Ghaznavid and Ghurid dynasties.[24] Interestingly, the technique of MMA no. 33.111 does not attest to the use of the toothed tools used in the stoneworking traditions of the regions west of Afghanistan, although the drill employed for the curls is not attested in Afghanistan; an Iranian origin is thus plausible.[25]

Technical Analysis and Techniques

The majority of the figures here appeared on the art market between the mid-1910s and early 1930s, together with a number of other stucco figures and figurative panels attributed to the Seljuq period.[26] About that time, surface color was added to satisfy the contemporary market aesthetic: the blues used in three of the figures were recently found to be synthetic ultramarine, and some of the reds appear to contain modern components. The remnant pigments—black, other reds, and gilding—could just as well be medieval as modern, making it difficult to confirm whether the paint was added to enhance extant polychromy (a crucial factor in most medieval decorative programs) or as an entirely modern addition.[27]

Together with overpainting, repairs to and the filling in of missing parts were customary restoration methods of the early twentieth century and were practiced extensively in the antiquities trade., including on all the objects illustrated here (with the exception of the archeological fragment of Ray [Philadelphia Museum of Art no. 1940-51-1])). This calls for caution when making observations, and rumors and accusations of forgery have, in the case of some stucco figures, proven to be correct.[28] The issue is complicated, as the whole group is without context, and scientific analyses cannot prove the dating of the gypsum plasters of which the figures are made (at least those that were analyzed). As a result, iconographic discussion of each figure must first take into consideration its provenance, as well as a mapping of the elements of which it is currently composed, including those related to different conservation efforts. Recent and ongoing investigations initiated on the occasion of the exhibition Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs aimed to understand the composition of the materials, the techniques used, and the stratigraphy of interventions, as well as to compare the composition of objects that came through the art market with those unearthed through controlled archaeological excavations. The results have helped build a table of reference for the composition of the gypsum plaster employed and have made way for initial hypotheses on manufacturing techniques.

Samples were taken from six fragments excavated at Rayy, including from Philadelphia of Art no.1940-51-1; from MMA no. 57.51.18, Victoria and Albert Museum nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928 and MMA no. 2014.529; from a figure in the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait (LNS2ST); from a figure in the Worcester Art Museum (1932.24); and from, a large panel from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (no. 1929-69-1). Collaborations with the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, also enabled visual comparison with a panel in their collection (SW.160.2011).[29] All the objects are made of gypsum plaster that in most cases is quite consistent in composition and manufacturing technique, proving a poorly controlled, or "traditional," firing of raw materials.[30] Such technology produces an unevenly fired gypsum plaster that contains relics with different degrees of calcination, from unburned gypsum to highly burned anhydrite, as well as contaminants from the fuel, the kiln surfaces and surroundings, and impurities from the original gypsum rock.[31] Often a coarse, poorly sorted mixture was used for the inner layer of the figures and the Rayy archaeological fragments. A more refined mixture was used for the surface layer, which may incorporate abundant unburned gypsum fragments (in MMA no. 57.51.18) or a sand temper of complex composition (in V&A nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928).

A purer, more refined gypsum manufactured under a more controlled firing was employed in the Worcester Art Museum figure, which proved to be a modern cast, as well as for a (certainly modern) backing layer in some of the other figures.[32] In fact, during the removal of this layer from the MMA no. 57.51.18 figure, a scrap of a newspaper printed in English was discovered beneath it. Although it is not always possible to recognize modern interventions, stratigraphy of the back of the same figure, as well as of V&A nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928, revealed several phases of restoration. It remains uncertain if they were carried out in the same laboratory and/or at different times.

The coarser gypsum plaster that comprises the figures’ inner layers was roughly modeled and left to dry. This process was sometimes carried out in more than one phase until the desired size was achieved, as shown by the stratigraphy on the backs of some figures (for example MMA no. 57.51.18). At least one case, the seated figure from the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. A20-1928), may have been executed on a horizontal surface, as shown by markings indicating the direction of the flow of gypsum plaster as it dried. The flat but uneven, unworked back surfaces show that the figures were meant to adhere to a wall, conforming to the medieval Islamic tradition of figural stucco decoration.[33] As in the Victoria and Albert example, other figures (e.g. MMA no. 57.51.18) show evidence of drying absent surface contact. While this may suggest that the modeling of the inner layer was not executed on a wall—and there is, in fact, no evidence of a horizontal flow of gypsum plaster—voids may have resulted from the application of the dense, coarse gypsum plaster on the wall. In any case, when the inner layer had dried to the desired shape and size, the outer layer (1–5 cm) of finer gypsum plaster was applied to the front face, where it was modeled and carved to achieve the final appearance of the figure. The fragment of the hand (Philadelphia of Art no.1940-51-1), the one archaeological object of the group, appears to be made of a fine gypsum plaster of two shades of gray, based on the amount of impurities, particularly nodules of clay containing fine fragments of charcoal and soot.

The shaping technique—modeled, with carved details—is consistent with that of known examples in central Iran and Mosul representing human figures, and follows that employed in the Sasanian period.[34] Interestingly, some of the known figurative stuccos were modeled separately, among them the busts at the Qara Saray in Mosul, which were apparently nailed to the stucco relief. Similarly, the plaque of a hawk attacking a duck (fig. 97 [in Court and Cosmos, New York 2016]), which is made of fine stucco only, with no inner, coarser layer, has refined borders; it may have been intended for a larger composition.

Overall, these investigations revealed multiple interventions and additions, with the most modern ones characterized by a distinctly more refined gypsum of a purer, more consistent composition than other samples for which a similar, nonindustrial manufacturing technique was hypothesized. Comparisons with excavated materials and with parallels on site also showed that both overall composition and modeling techniques are similar. Differences in the texture of gypsum crystals and in the typology and amount of mineral and rock fragments in the mixture could be used to distinguish among objects produced in separate instances.

Martina Rugiadi in [Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016]


1. First publications for the MMA objects are: MMA nos. 67.119 and 42.25.27 (also V&A nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928): Riefstahl 1931, figs. 3, 9, 10, 14 (see References under these objects); MMA no. 57.51.18: Ackerman 1940, p. 467, no. 41 (see References under this object); MMA no. 33.111: Dimand 1934 (see References under this object); MMA no. 2014.529: Bonhams 2014, pp. 182–83, no. 220 (see References under this object).

2. Whelan, Estelle J. “Representations of the Khassakıyah and the Origins of Mamluk Emblems.” In Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World: Papers from a Colloquium in Memory of Richard Ettinghausen [Institute Of Fine Arts, New York University, April 2–4, 1980], edited by Carol Manson Bier and Priscilla Parsons Soucek. University Park, Pa., 1988, p. 220, was the first scholar who associated such depictions with the khassakiyya, the slave-soldier elite who served directly under the Mamluk sultans (1250–1517), at whose court they were trained and educated and appointed to ceremonial posts as keepers of the royal symbolic paraphernalia (e.g., standard, parasol, cup, polo sticks, sword, arms, wardrobe, etc.), until being freed and, often, directly appointed amirs. The term khassakiyya and the system it describes are not attested before the Mamluk period, but antecedents can be seen, mutatis mutandis, in the personal guards of the Abbasid caliphs in the ninth century, al-ghilman al-khassa (Sourdel, D. “Ghulam. i. The Caliphate.” In EI2 1960–2009, vol. 2, 1965, pp. 1079–81).
With regard to the Ghaznavids, Bayhaqi described richly dressed ghulaman-i khassagi who surrounded the throne hall of Mas‘ud I on the occasion of a celebration in A.H. 429/A.D. 1038; they were also called ghulaman-i saray (guards of the palace) or ghulaman-i sultani (guards of the sultan); see Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran, 994:1040. Edinburgh, 1963, pp. 101, 136. For other interpretations of the standing figures, see Heidemann, Stefan, Jean-François de Lapérouse, and Vicki Parry. “The Large Audience: Life-sized Stucco Figures of Royal Princes from the Seljuq Period.” Muqarnas 31 (2014), pp. 35–71; Rice, Tamara Talbot. “Some Reflections Aroused by Four Seljukid Stucco Statues.” Anatolica 2 (1968), pp. 120–21, pls. 14–16.

3. Schlumberger, Daniel. Lashkari Bazar: Une résidence royale ghaznévide et ghoride; Ia, L’architecture; Ib, Le décor non-figuratif et les inscriptions. Mémoires de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan, 18. Paris, 1978, pp. 101−3, 105, 108, pl. 122.a. Their interpretation as ghulams is strongly supported by the passage in Bayhaqi cited in note 2 above.

4. The original context of the figural reliefsfrom Ghazni is not known, but it has been suggested that most came from one of the city’s many royal palaces. Rugiadi 2010a, p. 298 n. 21; Rugiadi 2012, pp. 1092, 1110−11, 1302−3.
The figures at Hisn Kayfa are difficult to observe. The objects they wield have been tentatively identified by Whelan (1988, p. 222, figs. 1–8 [see note 2 above for reference]) as an arrow or mace, a bow, and a bird. The objects held by the royal guards in the Gu’ Kummet niche are clearer. Gibson (Gibson, Melanie. “A Symbolic Khassakiyya: Representations of the Palace Guard in Murals and Stucco Sculpture.” In Islamic Art, Architecture and Material Culture: New Perspectives, edited by Margaret S. Graves, pp. 81–91. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2436. Oxford, 2012, p. 84, figs. 2, 2a−c) identifies them as a straight pole, a polo stick, a mace, a curved sword, beakers and napkins, and bows. The niche was removed from the site in 1960 and brought to the Iraq National Museum, Baghdad (A3105; see ibid, p. 84 n. 18), where its presence is confirmed after the events of May 2003 (Giovanni Curatola, personal communication and photographs).

5. Whelan 1988 (see note 2 above for reference), p. 221.

6. For a recent interpretation, see Heidemann, de Lapérouse, and Parry 2014 (see note 2 above for reference). For the distinction between the kulah and the taj (royal crown), see Soucek, Priscilla. “Ethnicity in Islamic Figural Tradition: The Case of the ‘Turk.’” Tari 2 (1992), pp. 79−87, 94, which also quotes the following sources: the poet Hasan-i Ghaznavi praised an unknown amir with the verse, “May the headdress [of the official] of the State be always on your head / because, as the crown fits the king of the world, the kulah fits you.” (My thanks to Viola Allegranzi for the translation); Nizam al-Mulk describes the “felt caps decorated with silver” on the guards of the Samanids and the gilded or silvered cap (kulah-i khass-i mugharraq) bestowed on a Seljuq official. We may add that jeweled headdresses also appear on nonroyal figures associated with authority, such as the genii of the Konya city walls and musicians and sphinxes elsewhere. Note, however, the headdress of the seated “ruler” of the Talisman Gate in Baghdad (Sarre, Friedrich, and Ernst Herzfeld. Archäologische Reise im Euphrat-und Tigris-Gebiet. 4 vols. Forschungen zur islamischen Kunst, 1. Berlin, 1911–20, vol. 2, p. 260, fig. 257). Depictions of Turkish rulers in early thirteenth-century manuscripts from Baghdad and Mosul in most cases show them with an imposing sharbush (pointed fur hat) rather than with a crown or a jeweled headdress, while turbans are usually reserved for princes (see Contadini, Anna. A World of Beasts: A Thirteenth-Century Illustrated Arabic Book on Animals (the Kitab Na‘t al-Hayawan) in the Ibn Bakhtıshu ‘ Tradition. Leiden and
Boston, 2012, pp. 127−28).

7. Soucek 1992 (reference in note 6 above), pp. 82, 90.

8. Sarre and Herzfeld 1911−20 (reference in note 6), vol. 2, pp. 240−49, vol. 3, pls. 96, 97.

9. Karev, Yuri. “Un cycle de peintures murales d’époque qarakhanide (XIIe–XIIIe à la citadelle de Samarkand: Le souverain et le peintre.” Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 147, no. 4 (2003), pp. 1685–1731; Karev, Yuri. “Qarakhanid Wall Paintings in the Citadel of Samarqand: First Report and Preliminary Observations.” Muqarnas 22 (2005), pp. 45–84; Karev, Yuri. “From Tents to City: The Royal Court of the Western Qarakhanids between Bukhara and Samarqand.” In Durand-Guédy, David, ed. Turko-Mongol Rulers, Cities and City Life. Brill’s Inner Asian Library, 31. Leiden and Boston, 2013, pp. 111−20.

10. Karev 2013 (see note 9 above for reference), pp. 119−20, and p. 114, fig. 13, for the latest reconstruction of the enthroned figure (here, fig. 32).

11. See Whelan 1988 (see note 2 above for reference), pp. 221–22, for the identification of the strong connection between khassakiyya and sovereignty in coeval visual culture. For the two manuscripts, see cats. 11, 106 in this catalogue (Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016)

12. For this and other examples, see Rabbat, Nasser. “‘Ajib and Gharib’: Artistic Perception in Medieval Arabic Sources.” The Medieval History Journal 9, no. 1 (2006), pp. 100, 103, and p. 100 n. 3. For examples with figural depictions, see note 19 below. Depictions of amirs also occur in metalwork, for example, a candlestick in the Metropolitan Museum (no. 91.1.596). For depictions of courtly life in Ghaznavid buildings, see Allegranzi, Viola. “Royal Architecture Portrayed in Bayhaqı’s Tarıh-i Mas‘udı and Archaeological Evidence from Ghazni (Afghanistan, 10th–12th Century).” Annali dell’Università degli Studi di Napoli “ L’Orientale.” Sezione orientale 74, nos. 1–4 (2014), pp. 95–120, pls. 1–3.

13. Per Bosworth, C[lifford] E[dmund]. “Ghulam. ii. Persia.” In EI2 1960–2009, vol. 2 (1965), pp. 1081–84, there is no specific study based on the sources on the status and progression that ruled the ghulam system for the Ghaznavid and Seljuq periods. However, a looser definition of the offices emerges from the sources of the Ghaznavid period. The custom of governors and viziers themselves collecting personal ghulams continued in the Seljuq period, when some of these attendants even became central in the political scene. Such was the case with the Nizamiyya, the personal guard of Malik Shah’s vizier Nizam al-Mulk, after his death.

14. Snelders, Bas. Identity and Christian-Muslim Interaction: Medieval Art of the Syrian Orthodox from the Mosul Area. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 198. Leuven and Walpole, Mass., 2010, pp. 343−46, 362−76, pls. 66−68, suggests that the figures may represent Christ and his heavenly army and that the figures holding napkins could evoke specific rituals performed during the celebration of the Eucharist in the Syrian Orthodox liturgy.

15. For the hypothesis of a beneficial power attributed to this imagery, see cats. 37, 88 in this catalogue (Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016)

16. Among the examples that are geographically relevant to this discussion are, from the ninth century, the buildings in Samarra and Raqqa (Meinecke, Michael. “Early Abbasid Stucco Decoration in Bilad al-Sham.” In Bilad al-Sham during the ‘Abbasid Period (132 A.H./750A.D. 451 A.H./1059A.D.): Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference for the History of the Bilad al-Sham 7–11 Sha‘ban 1410 A.H./4–8 March, 1990, English and French Section, edited by Muhammad Adnan al-Bakhit and Robert Schick, pp. 226–37. Amman, 1412, 1991); Susa (Hardy-Guilbert, Claire. “Stucs islamiques de Suse.” In Contribution à l’histoire de l’Iran: Mélanges offerts à Jean Perrot,
edited by François Vallat. Paris, 1990); and the masjid-i jami’ in Isfahan (Scerrato, Umberto. “Ricerche archeologiche nella moschea del Venerdì di Isfahan della Missione archeologica Italiana in Iran dell’IsMEO (1972–1978).” In Antica Persia: I tesori del Museo Nazionale di Tehran e la ricerca italiana in Iran, pp. 36–43. Exh. cat., Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Palazzo Brancaccio, Rome, 2001. Reprinted in Quaderni di Vicino Oriente 7, 2014, pp. 661–72, figs. 6–10); from the tenth century, the masjid-i jami’ in Na’in, Nishapur (Wilkinson, Charles K. Nishapur: Some Early Islamic Buildings and Their Decoration. New York, 1986); the Hajji Piyada Mosque, in Balkh (Melikian-Chirvani,
A[ssadullah] S[ouren]. “La plus ancienne mosquée de Balkh.” Arts Asiatiques 20, 1969, pp. 3–19; Golombek, Lisa. “Abbasid Mosque at
Balkh.” Oriental Art 25, 1969, pp. 173–89); the mosque excavated at Siraf (Whitehouse, David. Siraf III: The Congregational Mosque and Other Mosques from the Ninth to the Twelfth Centuries. The British Institute of Persian Studies. London, 1980); and, from the eleventh century, the Davazda Imam in Yazd (dated A.H. 429/A.D. 1037; see Ettinghausen, Richard. “The ‘Beveled Style’ in the Post-Samarra
Period.” In Archaeologica Orientalia in Memoriam Ernst Herzfeld, edited by George C. Miles, p. 76. Locust Valley, N.Y., 1952. Reprinted in Ettinghausen, Richard. Islamic Art and Archaeology: Collected Papers. Edited by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon. Berlin, 1984, pp. 182–201; Pope, Arthur Upham, and Phyllis Ackerman, eds. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. London and New York, 1938–39, vol. 2, pl. 273B), the masjid-i jami’ in Isfahan (where levels predating a Seljuq-period pavement with “painted relief work moulded around a mud core” was also found; see Jung, Michael. “Pre-Selguq Wall-Paintings of the Masgid-i Jom‘e at Isfahan Excavated by the Italian Archaeological Mission, adamji Project.” In Matthiae, Paolo, Frances Pinnock, Lorenzo Nigro, and Nicolò Marchetti, eds. Proceedings
of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, 5 May–10 May 2009 [sic; 2008], “Sapienza,” Università di Roma. Vol. 3, Islamic Session, Posters Session. 6 ICAANE. Wiesbaden, 2010, pp. 114–15, figs. 9, 10), and the mosque and house in Balis (Salles, Georges. “Les décors en stuc de Balis.” In IIIe congrès international d’art et d’archéologie iraniens, mémoires, Leningrad, Septembre 1935, pp. 221–22, 225, pls. 99–102. Moscow, 1939). See note 17 below for twelfth-century examples.

17. A nonexhaustive list of examples includes those from Termez (Pugatschenkowa [sic], G. A. Termes Schahr-i Sabz Chiwa. 1976. Berlin, 1981, p. 20), Ribat-i Sharaf and Sangan-i Pain (Korn, Lorenz. Ribat-e Sharaf, Sangan-e Pain. N.p., 2003), Lashkari Bazar (Schlumberger 1978; [reference in note 3 above]), Ghazni (Artusi, Simona. “The Architectural Brickwork and Stucco Decoration from the Palace of Mas‘ud III in Ghazni, Afghanistan.” Ph.D. diss., University of Udine, 2009), Dandanqan (cats. 165a–c in this catalogue), Merv (Herrmann, Georgina, with Hugh Kennedy. Monuments of Merv: Traditional Buildings of the Karakum. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 62. London, 1999, pp. 114–15), probably Sava (Pope and Ackerman, eds. 1938–39 [reference in note 16 above], vol. 2, p. 1305), Rayy, as the mihrab in the National Museum of Iran, Tehran (Korn 2003 [reference in this note above]), Gulpaygan (Korn, Lorenz. “Architecture and Ornament in the Great Mosque of Golpayegan (Iran).” Beiträge zur islamischen Kunst und Archäologie 3 [In Memoriam Marianne Barrucand (Lectures given at the Ernst Herzfeld Colloquium, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main, July 2–4, 2009, and Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, July 2–3, 2010), edited by Barbara Finster et al.] 2012, pp. 212–36]), and Isfahan (Galdieri, Eugenio. Isfahan: Masgid-i Gum‘a. Vol. 1, Documentazione fotografica e rapporto preliminare. Restorations, 1, pt. 1. Rome, 1972, pls. 129 m, 190 s (190) F; Galdieri, Eugenio. Isfahan: Masgid-i Gum‘a. Vol. 2, Il periodo al-i Buyide/The Al-i Buyid Period. Restorations, 1, pt. 2. Rome, 1973, figs. 67–69). See also the very flat and possibly unfinished stucco paneling in a madrasa in the government quarter in Rayy, found in the 1936 excavations, which included painted and gilded stucco (unpublished report, Art of Asia,
Oceania, and Africa, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; my thanks to Laura Weinstein). “Kashan school” examples include those in monuments in Ardestan, Zavara, Qamsar, and Nushabad—close to those in Buzan, Hamadan, Sujas, and Qazvin (Shani, Raya. “On the Stylistic Idiosyncrasies of a Saljuq Stucco Workshop from the Region of Kashan.” Iran 27, 1989, pp. 67–74, pls. 1–8). One twelfth-century
example from Mosul is the mihrab of the Nuri Mosque (Iraq National Museum, Baghdad, I.M. A9872). For Konya, see cats. 20a–g in this catalogue. The fewer occurrences in Egypt and Syria have sometimes been ascribed to Iranian craftsmen (Korn 2003 [reference in this note above]). See notes 21 and 22 below for figural examples.

18. A famous fourteenth-century example is the A.H. 710/A.D. 1310 mihrab in the masjid-i jami’ in Isfahan (Pope and Ackerman, eds. 1938–39 [reference in note 17 above], vol. 4, pl. 396). From this period onward, molded stucco elements were also assembled in elaborate muqarnas vaults (e.g., the tomb of ‘Abd al-Samad at Natanz, 707/1307; ibid., pl. 372), and the effect was often heightened by painted decoration.

19. Thompson, Deborah. Stucco from Chal Tarkhan-Eshqabad near Rayy. Colt Archaeological Institute Publications. Warminster, Wiltshire, 1976; Kröger, Jens. Sasanidischer Stuckdekor. Mainz, 1982, pp. 148–86, pls. 62–74, pp. 202–3, pls. 95–97. Recent archaeological investigations in the vicinity of Rayy are bringing to light stucco with figural depictions (Hamideh Chubak, personal communication, 2014).

20. Fragments of at least two friezes were excavated in the ninth-century sirdab area in Samarra; see Herzfeld, Ernst. Die Malereien von
Samarra. Berlin, 1927, pp. 100−105, figs. 78–81, pls. 75−88, now in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (I.9319), the British Museum, London (OA+.10978, .11013, 14, .11017, .11020, 21), and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (A.97-1922, .98-1922). With regard to the latter example, the blue pigment was obtained with lapis lazuli (Burgio, Lucia, Robin J. H. Clark, and Mariam Rosser-Owen. “Raman Analysis of Ninth-Century Iraqi Stuccoes from Samarra.” Journal of Archaeological Science 34 (2007), pp. 756–62). The examples from Sabra al-Mansuriyya include stucco heads and animals now in the Musée National d’Art Islamique, Raqqada (S1436, STC [61], STC [018]). Stucco is also extensively employed in the western Islamic regions, among them Algieria, Morocco, and Spain.

21. For the Termez creatures, see Denike, Boris Petrovich. “Izobrazheniye fantasticheskikh zvereı v termezskoı reznoı dekoratsii Representations of fantastic animals in Termez stucco decoration).” Iskusstvo Sredneı˘ Aziı˘: Trudy sektsii istorii iskusstva Instituta arkheologii i iskusstvoznaniya, Rossiıskaya assotsiatsiya nauchno-issledovatel’skikh institutov obshchestvennykh nayk 5 (1930), pp. 81–85, pls. 20−23. They relate to a twelfth-century restoration of the palace, for which see Pugachenkova 1981 (reference in note 17 above), p. 20. For the Khulbuk figures, see Siméon, Pierre. “Hulbuk: Architecture and Material Culture of the Capital of the Banijurids in Central Asia (Ninth–Eleventh Centuries).” Muqarnas 29, 2012, pp. 385–421, pp. 402−3, and pp. 404−5, figs. 17c–d, f–h. As for the heads, the Nishapur one is in the National Museum of Iran, Tehran; Rice (Rice, T. T., 1968 [reference in note 2 above], p. 118, fig. 12) understands it as a soldier. The other head is in the Museum of the Bishapour Research Center, Bishapur (74; see fig. 33 in this catalogue). With regard to the Rayy
figures, expedition reports mention two “hawk attacking duck” plaques. One is in the National Museum of Iran, Tehran (see
S[chmidt], E[rich F]. “Excavations at Rayy.” University Museum Bulletin (Philadelphia) 5, no. 4, 1935, p. 25), and the other is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (35.915; see fig. 97 in this catalogue).

22. Snelders, Bas. Identity and Christian-Muslim Interaction: Medieval Art of the Syrian Orthodox from the Mosul Area. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 198. Leuven and Walpole, Mass., 2010, pls. 43, 44.

23. Lashkari Bazar: Schlumberger 1978 (reference in note 3 above), pp. 61–65, 101–8, pl. 122.a; Samarqand: Karev 2003, Karev 2005, Karev 2013 (all 3 references in note 9 above); Khulbuk: Siméon 2012 (reference in note 21 above), pp. 406, 409, fig. 21; Nishapur: Wilkinson 1986 (reference in note 16 above), pp. 272–90. In addition to the examples of modeled and carved stucco listed in the text that follows, the use of molded friezes is found all over these vast territories in the eleventh to thirteenth century, often with running animals or birds: a large number was excavated in Rayy, often with a pair of birds (most in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); molded friezes with geometric motifs were also excavated in Nishapur and are known from the Konya Kösk (cats. 20a–g in this catalogue).

24. Examples near Mosul include the Gu’ Kummet niche now in the Iraq National Museum, Baghdad (see note 4 above), and the gate from Mar Behnam (mid-13th century), for which see Gibson 2012 (reference in note 4 above), p. 84, with reference to Whelan, Estelle J. The Public Figure: Political Iconography in Medieval Mesopotamia. London, pp. 410–11. For full-relief carved marbles from Ghazni, see the
animal- shaped drains in Rugiadi 2012 (reference in note 4 above), pp. 1120, 1276. In Iran stone is more commonly used for funerary purposes only (see, for example, cats. 200–204 in this catalogue). A rare example of bas-relief employed in architectural decoration occurs at a palace at Sarmaj (ca. 1010); see Blair, Sheila S. The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana. Studies in Islamic Art and Architecture, 5. Leiden and New York, 1992, pp. 67−70, fig. 36.

25. For tools employed in stone carving, see Rugiadi 2010a, p. 298; Rugiadi 2012 (both references in note 4 above), pp. 1058−61. Less is known about the carving techniques of twelfth-century stonework from the Jazira.

26. Riefstahl, Rudolf Meyer. “Persian Islamic Stucco Sculptures.” The Art Bulletin 13, no. 4 (December 1931), pp. 438–63; Pope and Ackerman, eds. 1938–39 (reference in note 16 above); Heidemann, de Lapérouse, and Parry 2014 (reference in note 2 above), p. 35.

27. On the Metropolitan Museum figures (MMA nos. 67.119, 57.51.18, 33.11, 42.25.17, and 2014.529), the blue is synthetic ultramarine, and some of the red lead is mixed with barium sulphate, a modern component; natural pigments are charcoal black and red lead. Pigments “were also distressed to give them an archaeological appearance,” as indicated by the presence of a bright orange on eroded areas only, while the “undamaged” surfaces show a “darkened” red color (Heidemann, de Lapérouse, and Parry 2014 [reference in note 2 above], pp. 60–62). Modern synthetic ultramarine and red lead with barium sulphate were also found in the figure in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (I.2658; ibid.); the latter pigment was also found in the figure in the Detroit Institute of Arts (25.64; ibid., pp. 62, 71 n. 122). Natural pigments—vermilion red and carbon black—were found on a mask that formed part of the Marling bequest to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (A.23-1928), to which cats. 1c, d (Victoria and Albert Museum nos. A20-1928 and A21-1928) also belong; see Gibson
2012 (reference in note 4 above), p. 86 n. 26.

28. Central to the controversy was Arthur Upham Pope, an art historian who served as an intermediary between dealers in Iran and purchasers in the United States. Accused and then publicly absolved of assembling forgeries for the London exhibition of 1931, Pope himself contended that some of the stucco figures published by other scholars were obvious forgeries (Pope and Ackerman, eds. 1938–39 (reference in note 16 above), vol. 2, pp. 1304–5 n. 5; Lerner, Judith A. “Arthur Upham Pope and the Sasanians.” In Arthur Upham Pope and a New Survey of Persian Art, edited by Yuka Kadoi, pp. 167–229. Leiden, 2016, pp. 188–93).

29. At the Metropolitan Museum, these investigations were carried out by Federico Carò, Associate Research Scientist, who also wrote the scientific part of this text, and Elena Basso, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation, both in the Department of Scientific Research; and Conservators Jean-François de Lapérouse and Vicki Parry, Department of Objects Conservation. Their work was carried out in collaboration with Sophie Budden, formerly Head of Conservation at the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait; Victor Borges, Senior Sculpture Conservator, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Stefan Masarovic, Conservator of Wood and Stone, Museum of Islamic Art, Doha; Paula Artal-Isbrand, Objects Conservator, and Philip Klausmeyer, Conservation Scientist and Paintings Conservator, Worcester Art Museum; and Melissa Meighan, Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art. (The author thanks all involved for their inspiring collaboration.) The scientific analyses undertaken included petrographic analysis, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). See note 27 above for other studies that focused
mainly on pigments.

30. Traditional kilns are still in use in Iran and, more generally, in the broader Middle East. See Aljubouri, Zeki A., and Auday M. Alrawas. “The Petrography and Mineralogy of Technical Plaster and Local Juss.” Iraqi Journal of Earth Science 6, no. 1, 2006, p. 3; Oudbashi, Omid, and Atefe Shekofte. “Traditional Methods of Gypsum Production in Province of Khuzestan, Southwest of Iran.” In Proceedings of
the 1st Historical Mortars Conference—HMC08: Characterization, Diagnosis, Conservation, Repair and Compatibility, Lisbon, 24th to 26th September 2008. Lisbon, 2008.

31. Most common impurities include,among others, quartz, feldspar, calcite, apatite, iron oxides, clay minerals, and sulfide minerals such as celestine, pyrite, and sphalerite.

32. XRD analysis showed only gypsum: no anhydrite or other detectable mineral phases were identified in the mixture. The investigation was carried out by Paula Artal-Isbrand, with contributions by her Worcester Art Museum colleague Philip Klausmeyer and by Federico Carò
of the Metropolitan Museum.

33. In MMA no. 67.119 the area behind the head was sawn from the dry surface, either to detach it from its wall collocation or to level the depth of the independent detached figure.

34. For exceptions, see the Khulbuk and Termez panels cited in note 21 above. For a Sasanian stucco figure, see the Nizamabad head and torso in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (I. 4891a, b; Heroische Zeiten: Tausend Jahre persisches Buch der Könige. Exh. cat., Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2011. Catalogue by Julia Gonnella, Christoph Rauch, and others. Berlin, 2011, p. 88).

35. Sarre and Herzfeld 1911−20 (reference in note 6 above), vol. 2, pp. 241−42. Instead, most nonfigural examples (inscriptions and vegetal motifs) are bas-reliefs, carved in situ out of a flat stucco surface.
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