Reviews

The Marjani Fund and Publishing House, created in Moscow in 2006, aims at developing Tatar cultural and religious heritage in Russia. The richly edited present catalogue is devoted to the traditional art of shamayil (شمایل, glass or cloth painting with Islamic religious motives and calligraphy: see Central Eurasian Reader 1 [2008], review No. 369 pp. 302-3) as it developed in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Russia as counterpart to Orthodox Christian icon, and that has been endeavouring to spring up again since the end of the Soviet period. An historical and typological introduction divides this genre into diverse categories according to the themes illustrated: sacred places of Islam with strong reform-minded preference for those of Mecca and Medina; the fundaments of the faith; the history of prophets; formulas borrowed from Islamic gnostic literature ― to which should have been added the representations of symbolic places of Tatar national past like the remnants of the ancient city of Bulghar; of big cities of Islam located on the itinerary of the hajj from Russia; of technical progress in the world of Islam, with particular interest in railway. The numerous, carefully printed colour illustrations of the catalogue convey a particularly picturesque image of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Islam as it developed in the Middle Volga Region. A special section has been added at the end of the volume with illustration of the works by contemporary artists ― who find their inspiration in international Islamic art as it is practiced nowadays, especially in the Near East, rather than earlier vernacular models.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.B-352