Treasuring Yemen: Notes on Exchange and Collection in Rasūlid Material Culture

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Arab & Islamic Civilizations Department

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Research Article

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Islam - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Islamischen Orients

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Often distinguished by their characteristic five-petalled rosette emblems, objects dedicated to the Rasūlid sultans of Yemen in Egypt or Syria have long been identified as a distinct corpus in histories of Islamic art. Whether treated singly or as a group, these objects have usually been positioned in the periphery of discussions about Mamlūk luxury arts or cited briefly as evidence of diplomatic relations between the Mamlūk and Rasūlid leadership. Perhaps reflecting a general marginalization of South Arabia in the historiographic traditions of Islamic art scholarship, narratives centered on the imperial Mamlūk enterprise tend to overshadow both the Rasūlid context for these objects and the complexities of their global material histories. This essay explores these two themes together, drawing broadly on visual culture connected with the Rasūlid court to analyze a selection of case studies. It reviews art historical literature on the Rasūlid-Mamlūk corpus as reflected in European and North American scholarship, outlines the various modalities by which this material exchange is understood to have taken place, explores the setting for Rasūlid patronage and collection of such objects, and examines their material afterlives.

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