Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
This dissertation interprets images of hunting in architectural decoration produced throughout the early Islamic Umayyad caliphate (ca. 661750 CE) as a series of dialogs between the ArabMuslim conquerors and their conquered subjects. Through four case studies I argue that conquered peoples who have been excluded from considerations of Umayyad art and patronage played a variety of roles in shaping visual cultures throughout the empire.
The first case study examines a pavilion known as Azraq alShīshān in the Azraq Oasis (in modernday eastern Jordan), which was decorated with relief carvings that included images of hunting. Situating these images within their architectural and environmental context reveals that the landscape was a potent medium for the projection of imperial power, both in real hunting parties as well as their literary and visual depictions.
The second case study focuses on a bathhouse known as Quṣayr ʿAmra (in modernday Jordan), which was decorated for the Umayyad prince alWalīd ibn Yazīd (r. 743744). I draw attention to a consciousness of conquest and the geographic scope of empire reflected in the images that adorn its walls, and I see this building as articulating a visual muʿārada (competitive comparison) between the centers and provinces of the caliphate.
The third case study analyzes the suburban estate known as Chal Ṭarkhān ʿEshqābād (in northern Iran, south of modernday Tehran). It is decorated with stucco reliefs depicting “postSasanian” hunting scenes that could have been desirable to Muslim and nonMuslim elites, both of whom were in a position to patronize craftsmen in the provinces of the Umayyad caliphate. These reliefs demonstrate how members of each group might have employed preexisting local imagery in an attempt to mediate between the two communities, echoing the broader cultural phenomenon of antiArabexceptionalism known as shuʿūbiyya.
The fourth case study explores the visual dialog that emerged between imperial patrons and their conquered subjects as a consequence of the Umayyad conquests by comparing murals produced on the eastern frontier of the Umayyad Empire in the Sogdian city of Panjikent (in modernday western Tajikistan) and a floor painting from Qaṣr alḤayr alGharbī (in modernday Syria) in the Umayyad heartland.
Considered together, these four case studies of hunting images reflect the processes by which a variety of aristocratic and imperial identities were negotiated and redefined in visual culture within the Umayyad Empire during the ArabMuslim conquests of the late seventh and early eighth centuries.
Brey, Alexander. "The Caliph’s Prey: Hunting in the Visual Cultures of the Umayyad Empire." PhD Diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2018.