Doris Behrens-Abouseif is a specialist in the History of Islamic art and architecture. Her list of publications covers a wide range of subjects from the early period to the 19th century with focus on Egypt and Syria: the history of Islamic architecture and decorative arts, urbanism,
waqf (pious endowments), Islamic cultural history, concepts of aesthetics and Orientalism. She is currently working on a book about Mamluk libraries, scribes and book markets. Her recent publications include: Cairo of the Mamluks, London/Cairo 2007; The Minarets of Cairo, London/Cairo 2010; Practicing Diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate: Gifts and Material Culture in the Medieval Islamic World, London 2014.
The impact of the Crusades on figural representations in the arts of Egypt and Syria (12th – 14th centuries)
Islamic culture is generally associated with the prohibition of figural representations. Art history tells a different and more complex story.
My paper if focused on the art of Syria and Egypt in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Crusaders presence in the Levant, which corresponds to a period of great artistic creativity under the rule of the Ayyubids and Mamluks in the region. Although it is mostly the Islamic influence on Crusader culture that historians have emphasized so far, the reverse impact
needs also to be considered. My paper will show that this age of confrontation and interaction with Western Christian culture stimulated artistic innovations in general as well as new ideas regarding the representation of figural motifs on artefacts such as glass and metalwork
and mural paintings.
Key words: Islamic art, Syria, Egypt, Crusades, cultural interactions, figural motifs