The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Seljuk Woodworking


 

The mimbar of the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya, dated 1155, is the oldest piece of dated Seljuk art known

 

The Seljuks were master woodcarvers. The designs carved in wood were similar to those used by stonemasons. Although there was an important series of wooden-pillared mosques built in the late Seljuk era in Central Anatolia, the use of wood was mainly reserved for decorative elements: doors, window shutters, mimbars (mosque pulpits), Koran stands, and paneling. There was probably little wooden decoration or furnishings in hans, and no remaining examples exist.


The Seljuks developed the technique known as “kundekāri”, a complex technique which used pre-shaped, dried and seasoned pieces of cut and carved wood. Pieces of wood were first cut into shapes such as polygons, diamonds or stars. Afterwards, the surface area was carved as well. The pieces were then interlocked by mortise, without glue or nails, and mounted on a frame and backing. The favored patterns were the star and polygon (usually filled with vine scrolls or flowers), kufic inscriptions and other complicated and intricate geometric shapes. The Seljuks used low-relief carving (shutters, sarcophagi, and doors) and high-relief carving for calligraphic friezes and decorative borders. Other favored techniques of woodworking were open trelliswork panels and surface painting.

 

Notable examples of woodwork may be seen in Turkish museums and in situ at the Kebir Mosque in Aksaray and the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya, among others.

 

 

Painting on wood

As mentioned above, woodwork was sometimes painted in the Seljuk period. No examples remain, although the famous ceilings of the Capella Palatino in Palermo, Sicily, painted in the Fatimid style by the Normans in 1154, can provide some hint onto what the painted decoration of the Seljuk palaces may have looked like. Traces of painting have been found in the ruins of the Alara Saray built by Alaeddin Keykubad in 1224.


 

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