Ephemeral Architecture and Portable Artifacts in Islamic Art

Ephemeral structures are designed to be fleeting — they last a short period of time, are often fragile, and can be assembled and disassembled as needed. Portable artifacts can be easily moved or carried because they are light and functional.

Islam was born among nomadic tribes constantly on the move that required transportable lodging in the form of tents. By the 9th century, although Islam had become an urban civilization, nomadic instincts remained alive in the subconscious. This course will examine the Persian Court (comprising palace, kiosk, and tent), the imperial tents of the Ottoman Empire, portable mosques and prayer niches, and the temporary structures raised for the celebration of circumcisions and other events. Most of these structures have survived only in painted miniatures (e.g., Shah-Nameh) and texts (e.g., The Babur Nama). We will study these ephemeral structures, as well as numerous movable artifacts (carpets, cushions, folding tables). Traveling accounts, painted manuscripts, and museum objects will illustrate these artifacts.

Class Recordings:

Class 1 - March 6, 2023

Class 2 - March 13, 2023

Class 3 - March 20, 2023

Class 4 - March 27, 2023

Venue: online
Meets on: Mondays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 3/6/2023
Sessions: 4
Class Size: 25
Teaching Style: Lecture with questions
Weekly Preparation: 1 hour
Group Leader Biography:

Maria Luisa F. Mansfield earned a Licence ès-Lettres et Maîtrise (MA) from the University of Geneva and a Ph.D. in Fine Arts and Middle East Studies at Harvard University.  She has served as a Presidential intern at The American University in Cairo and a Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Universidad Simón Bolívar - Caracas, Venezuela. She has worked as an international consultant and a senior researcher at The Institute for International Urban Development in Cambridge, MA. Mansfield lived in Cairo and has traveled extensively throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.