Free and open to the public
Visions, Voices, and Fragrances of the Beyond: Sensory Aspects of Ottoman Tombs
Although Ottoman funerary architecture has been thoroughly surveyed in terms of its formal and ornamental characteristics and therefore its visual aspects, neither its aural dimensions in the form of Qur’anic recitation and prayer, nor the customary deployment of fragrances by means of incense burners distributed throughout the space have received the attention they deserve. Qur’anic recitation and purchases of aromatics for incense can be reconstructed with the help of the relevant endowment deeds preserved in the Archives of the General Directorate of Endowments in Turkey, as they document the employment and qualification of reciters as well as the expenses of the tomb-keeper. Travelers’ accounts, narrative literature and poetry provide further evidence of the ways in which Ottomans experienced and enriched funerary architecture. Moreover, incense burners removed from the tombs, but kept in various museum collections, present clues as to the smellscapes of these monuments.
Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of sensory anthropology and soundscape studies, this lecture will investigate the interplay between the visual, the aural, and the olfactory in Ottoman tombs, by means of specific examples in Istanbul and other major cities of the empire. It will argue that Ottoman tombs presented a sensory environment that could be manipulated for the purpose of propagating specific political messages and programs, while simultaneously hinting at Paradise—as described in the hadith and the paradise narrative genre—where the deceased were hoped to reside and where the visitors could imagine themselves in the Afterlife.
Nina Macaraig is Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology and History of Art at Koç University, Istanbul. Currently, she teaches in the Department of Art History at UC Riverside. She specializes in Ottoman architectural history, in particular the “lesser” monuments within its canon, such as bathhouses and soup kitchens, as well as sensory aspects of the built environment. Recent articles include “Ottoman Royal Women’s Spaces: The Acoustic Dimension,” Journal of Women’s History 26/1 (2014), and “The Fragrance of the Divine: Ottoman Incense Burners and Their Context,” The Art Bulletin 96/1 (2014), for which she received the Journal of Women’s History’s Third Biannual Best Article Award and the Ömer Lütfi Barkan Article Prize, respectively. Her book entitled Çemberlitaş [sp: Tchem-bur-lee-tash] Hamamı in Istanbul: The Biographical Memoir of a Turkish Bath is forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press. In Spring 2016, she held a Getty Fellowship for preliminary work on her second monograph on incense use and incense burners from a cross-civilizational perspective.
Image: Mausoleum of Selim II, Löwenklau Album, ca 1570s. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Cod. 8615, fol. 129r (artwork in the public domain; photograph © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
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