1. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
    Washington, D.C.
    Joined
    11 Oct '06
    Moves
    3464
    20 Mar '09 19:281 edit
    For purposes of discussion ... an observation.

    In reading the book My Name is Red, by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, I have been given a rare insight into a key philosophical difference that may exist between Islam and the West that I believe lies at the heart of this work. The author is trying to show us something fundamental about different people from different cultures and religions at a pivotal period in history. He is showing us how they judged what was real. He was depicting a period when one culture departed from a traditional, authoritarian, view of reality and introduced the idea that what the individual could see also could be the basis of reality.

    The book has much in it about the traditions, beliefs, and specific techniques that characterize the art of Islamic manuscript illustration from Mohammed's time up to 1590 thoughout the Muslim world, including the influence of the Chinese masters. Of great importance is the tradition of such art that had its origins in the city of Herat, the novel says.

    The dramatic and philosophical plot point on which the entire work revolves is the consequence of the challenge presented by the radical advent of the Venetian, "Frankish," or European techniques of painting -- and the departure from primarily religious subjects into such forms as portraiture.

    Once one has absorbed a great deal of the book, about halfway through it, a light seems to come on and one sees the problem the Islamic painters faced in considering what the Europeans were doing.

    The challenge was complex, involving the introduction of perspective, the use of different values of the same color more accurately to depict natural light, and other techniques that went to the heart of what the Islamic masters considered dangerous, sacreligious innovations.

    The Europeans had abandoned two-dimensional images of symbolic, religious import in favor of attempting, quite successfully with each passing year, to represent what the eye acutally could see.

    The Islamic masters found this a profoundly disturbing departure because, to them, the purpose of their two-dimensional images where colors were used only in their pure, unshaded form, was to represent "what things are," not what things looked like.

    For example, Pamuk uses a tree as a narrator for a chapter. The tree articulates its desire to not be a tree, but to “be its meaning” instead.

    In other words, the Islamic masters thought capturing the likeness of an actual individual, like a photograph, led to idolatry.

    Further, a major character, an older man named Enishte, explains that the “illustration comes at once to our aid” when “our intellect and imagination are at pains” to understand the meaning of a story. “Painting without its accompanying story is an impossibility,” he says, although Enishte was in fact engaged in a project he knew was contrary to this view. Enishte's acutal philosophy of painting changed after his second trip to Venice, where he encountered a painting that bewildered him. After studying the painting for some time, Enishte concluded, “the underlying tale was the picture itself. The painting wasn’t the extension of a story at all, it was something in its own right”

    One gets from this book the impression the more traditional view was the mindset of all pious Muslims of the time: that what things looked like, or what actually happened, or what actually was written, was unimportant compared to the unshakeable truth of true beliefs as expressed by tradition and proper religious and temporal authority.

    The attempt to depict reality led to mistaking the image for what was real, the Islamic masters feared. Reality was best illustrated by images handed down unchanged century upon century, and which gave primacy to what the books and manuscripts said reality was, not what one might see or hear for one's self.

    Further, images were copied from year to year, master to master, because there could be no individual style or innovation. It is only God, or Allah, that brings into being that which did not exist before, who gives life to the lifeless. No painter could compete with Him.

    "The greatest of sins is committed by painters who presume to do what He does, who claims to be as creative as He."

    This implies an entirely different apprehension of reality from mine; in fact, its very opposite.

    Pamuk won the Novel Prize for literature in 2006. Even in translation, he is undoubtedly a great, subtle, and vastly entertaining writer.
  2. At the Revolution
    Joined
    15 Sep '07
    Moves
    5073
    20 Mar '09 20:56
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    For purposes of discussion ... an observation.

    In reading the book My Name is Red, by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, I have been given a rare insight into a key philosophical difference that may exist between Islam and the West that I believe lies at the heart of this work. The author is trying to show us something fundamental about different people fro ...[text shortened]... Even in translation, he is undoubtedly a great, subtle, and vastly entertaining writer.
    😴

    Stop boring me with your Turkish writers and bring me a real Muslim for once.
  3. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
    Washington, D.C.
    Joined
    11 Oct '06
    Moves
    3464
    20 Mar '09 21:09
    Originally posted by scherzo
    😴

    Stop boring me with your Turkish writers and bring me a real Muslim for once.
    go away, charlie, you ignorant swine.

    No one wants to hear nonsense about a "real Muslim" from a mere wannabe thug.
  4. At the Revolution
    Joined
    15 Sep '07
    Moves
    5073
    20 Mar '09 21:37
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    go away, charlie, you ignorant swine.

    No one wants to hear nonsense about a "real Muslim" from a mere wannabe thug.
    The mere wannabe thug has accomplished more in four or five weeks than you have in your entire misbegotten life.
  5. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
    Washington, D.C.
    Joined
    11 Oct '06
    Moves
    3464
    21 Mar '09 17:13
    😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴😴
  6. Illinois
    Joined
    20 Mar '07
    Moves
    6266
    22 Mar '09 08:16
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    For purposes of discussion ... an observation.

    In reading the book My Name is Red, by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, I have been given a rare insight into a key philosophical difference that may exist between Islam and the West that I believe lies at the heart of this work. The author is trying to show us something fundamental about different people fro ...[text shortened]... Even in translation, he is undoubtedly a great, subtle, and vastly entertaining writer.
    Very cool.
  7. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
    Washington, D.C.
    Joined
    11 Oct '06
    Moves
    3464
    23 Mar '09 01:37
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Very cool.
    a later chapter is entitled "I am a horse."

    It is not a horse speaking. It is the image of the horse used by artists over many years, the same or very similar illustration, again and again the same.

    the image of the horse tells us these artists do not look at horses and try to depict what they see; the artists draw the horse from memory, even after they've gone blind at their trade. The purpose of the image is not to depict what the artist sees; it is to depict what God perceives.

    the image of the horse then asks whether the artists that strive not to distinguish their work by depicting the image of a real horse, but strive to distinguish their work by the skill in which they depict the traditional image of a horse nevertheless are committing the sin of attempting to compete with God, who alone can be creative.

    there is much more -- the chapter is very funny.
  8. Donationrwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    Royal Oak, MI
    Joined
    09 Sep '01
    Moves
    26187
    23 Mar '09 17:39
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    a later chapter is entitled "I am a horse."

    It is not a horse speaking. It is the image of the horse used by artists over many years, the same or very similar illustration, again and again the same.

    the image of the horse tells us these artists do not look at horses and try to depict what they see; the artists draw the horse from memory, even after th ...[text shortened]... pete with God, who alone can be creative.

    there is much more -- the chapter is very funny.
    Have you looked at much Islamic art? Some of it is very stylized and some of it is much more "realistic." If we look at Islamic book illustration, for example, we see a higher degree of stylization in the Safavid manuscripts, but in many of the Mughal manuscripts we see a greater degree of naturalism, although this could be due to a greater degree of European influence in Mughal art.

    The point is that there's no monolithic "Islamic" art style out there. It varies by location and time frame.
  9. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
    Washington, D.C.
    Joined
    11 Oct '06
    Moves
    3464
    23 Mar '09 20:02
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Have you looked at much Islamic art? Some of it is very stylized and some of it is much more "realistic." If we look at Islamic book illustration, for example, we see a higher degree of stylization in the Safavid manuscripts, but in many of the Mughal manuscripts we see a greater degree of naturalism, although this could be due to a greater degree of Europe ...[text shortened]... there's no monolithic "Islamic" art style out there. It varies by location and time frame.
    I'm aware that Islamic illustrations varied considerably over time and across different regions. I acknowledged that in the first post, which, being rather long, you may have overlooked.

    These points are not about Islamic art as such; I am commenting on the author's use of the art up to 1590 and the introduction into it of "Frankish" influence to make the center of his novel revolve around how the art of both East and West reflected attitudes about reality and how it should be depicted and perceived.

    I am becoming increasingly convinced as I read this book that Pamuk is most concerned with the question of how authoritarianism affects these attitudes.

    Again, Pamuk is talking about Islamic art and "Frankish" art of around 1590 and earlier, not later. For example, the ideal for the Islamic art for miniaturists in the Istanbul of 1590 is said by Pamuk to be that of the masters of the city of Herat. He also refers to the influence of the "Chinese masters." There are a lot of references to the Safavid tradition, or Persian masters.

    I do not recall much said about any influence coming from Hindustan or Akbar's Mughal manuscripts -- I am aware that Akbar assembled a royal atelier, first at Fatehpur Sikri, then at Lahore, from which he commissioned numerous illustrated manuscripts that incorporate Persian, Indian, and even European elements.

    Although I haven't seen a direct reference as yet, I'm aware also that in Venice during the second half of the sixteenth century, costume books emerged as a popular new genre and reflect a greater curiosity about foreign cultures derived from travels and new discoveries.

    Venice and the Veneto, where at least nine examples were published between 1540 and 1610, played a leading role in the costume book's early development. The most famous and important example is Cesare Vecellio's Degli abiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo of 1590, which became a model of the genre.

    That probably served as the inspiration for Pamuk's novel. The issue of depicting through portraiture the actual image of a person as distinct from other persons is a theme established from the viewpoints of different characters and even symbols -- chapters narrated by a tree, a horse, death itself. The idea that a miniaturist could paint an image of a specific person -- so one could distinguish the face illustrated from that of any other face and recognize who that image represented, is the basis of the central murder mystery of the book.

    There is a lot of reference to the constant wars between the Ottomans and the Safavids. I did look at examples of Ottoman and Safavid book illustrations of about 1600:

    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/08/wam/ho_25.83.9.htm#

    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/08/wai/ho_63.210.11.htm#
Back to Top