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Court and Cosmos Cover

Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs

Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, Martina Rugiadi, and A. C. S. Peacock
380 pages
462 illustrations
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Rising from humble origins as Turkish tribesmen, the powerful and culturally prolific Seljuqs—an empire whose reach extended from Central Asia to the eastern Mediterranean—dominated the Islamic world from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs examines the roots and impact of this formidable dynasty, featuring some 250 objects as evidence of the artistic and cultural flowering that occurred under Seljuq rule.

Beginning with an historical overview of the empire, from its early advances into Iran and northern Iraq to the spread of its dominion into Anatolia and northern Syria, Court and Cosmos illuminates the splendor of Seljuq court life. This aura of luxury extended to a sophisticated new elite, as both sultans and city dwellers acquired dazzling glazed ceramics and metalwork lavishly inlaid with silver, copper, and gold. Advances in science and technology found parallels in a flourishing interest in the arts of the book, underscoring the importance the Seljuqs placed on the scholarly and literary life. At the same time, the unrest that accompanied warfare between the Seljuqs and their enemies as well as natural disasters and unexplainable celestial phenomena led people to seek solace in magic and astrology, which found expression in objects adorned with zodiacal and talismanic imagery. These popular beliefs existed alongside devout adherence to Islam, as exemplified by exquisitely calligraphed Qur’ans and an array of building inscriptions and tombstones bearing verses from the holy book.

The great age of the Seljuqs was one that celebrated magnificence, be it of this world or in the celestial realm. By revealing the full breadth of their artistic achievement, Court and Cosmos provides an invaluable record of the Seljuqs’ contribution to the cultural heritage of the Islamic world.

Standing Figure with Jeweled Headdress, Gypsum plaster; modeled, carved, polychrome-painted, gilded
12th–early 13th century
Standing Figure with Feathered Headdress, Gypsum plaster; modeled, carved, polychrome-painted, gilded
12th–early 13th century
Head from a Figure with a Beaded Headdress, Fossiliferous limestone; carved, drilled
12th–early 13th century
Head of a Central Asian Figure in a Pointed Cap, Gypsum plaster; modeled, carved
12th–early 13th century
Head of a Central Asian Figure, Gypsum plaster; modeled, carved
12th–13th century
Dinar of Tughril (r. 1040–63), Gold
dated 444 AH/1052–53 CE
Dirham of Ghiyath al-Din Kai Khusrau II (r. 1239–46); Astrological Device (Sun-Lion), Silver
dated 638 AH/1240–41 CE
Dirham of Nasir al-Din Mahmud (r. 1201–22): Double-Headed Bird of Prey, Copper
dated 615 AH/1218–19 CE
Model of a House with Festive Scene, Stonepaste; molded, modeled, glazed in transparent turquoise
12th–early 13th century
Model of a House with Amorous Couple, Stonepaste; molded, glazed in opaque white, luster-painted
12th–early 13th century
Fragments of a Lamp, Glass, green; applied decoration
10th–12th century
Bowl, Mina'i ("enameled") ware, Mina'i ware. Fritware, stain and overglaze-painted., Iranian
late 12th–early 13th century
Roundel, Gold; filigree, granulation
11th century
Luster Star-Shaped Tile, Stonepaste; luster-painted on opaque glaze with inglaze painting
dated 608 AH/1211–12 CE
Riding Coat, Silk; weft-faced compound twill (samite)
first half 13th century
Necklace, Gold sheet; granulation, twisted wire
11th–12th century
Necklace, Gold; granulation
11th century
Ring, Gold; cast and fabricated from sheet, decorated with bitumen-highlighted incising, set with tourmaline bead
12th century
Ring with Seated Lion, Gold; inlaid with black organic compound
12th century
Perfume Sprinkler (Qumqum), Greenish glass; blown, applied blown foot, applied decoration
11th–mid-13th century
Showing 20 of 69

View Citations

Metropolitan museum of art, ed. 2016. Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs [Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 27-July 24, 2016]. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.