The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
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Decoration with stucco is a traditional art form in Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. The most stunning examples come from the Abbasid palace of Samarra, north of Baghdad, which was founded for the Turkish mercenaries in the 9th century. These stucco works here were carved with abstract designs in the beveled technique also seen on wood pieces from this palace. The stucco baseboard panels seen in the homes excavated at Nishapur in Iran, dating from the 10-11th century, are also notable.
The Seljuk Turks perhaps used stucco less flamboyantly than at these two sites, but nonetheless it was often used, as it is inexpensive and easy to manufacture in molds or to carve directly when semi-dried. Most of the Seljuk examples of stucco decoration were elements used to decorate architectural projects, most often in civil architecture projects such as palaces and homes. Here, stucco was used on wall surfaces, shelves and niches. Stucco was also seen on mihrabs in conjunction with tiles and bricks, as seen in the Arslanhane Mosque in Ankara. Examples from the excavations of palaces such as the Kubadabad in Beyşehir (1235), show that stucco lattices were originally fitted with pieces of colored glass.
The most impressive stucco works of the Anatolian Seljuk era can be seen in the palaces of Alanya, Kubadabad and Konya. Traces of red paint can be seen on the pieces from the Alanya Palace, built by Alaeddin Keykubad, which has led scholars to posit that these works were originally covered in paint. Stucco was particularly used to form niched shelves in the rooms of palaces and kiosks (pleasure pavilions), such as the Kubadabad, Alanya and Konya Alaeddin palaces, and the Delice Kiosk at Yozgat. The two-tiered shelves were arranged side by side.
Stucco designs depict a wide variety of humans, animals and fantastic creatures, often in a lively and charming style.
Konya, Karatay Madrasa Tile Museum, inv. 1516; from the Kubadabad Palace, 1st quarter 13th c.
This fragment of a longer piece depicts a hunter on horseback with his falcon and dogs under an arch with columns. An angel with wings appears to be depicted in the spandrel of the arch.
Aksaray Museum, inv. 2-1-2000; 1st half 13th c.
This molded stucco fragment is part of a doorway niche, and depicts a crowned siren in profile on a ground of vegetal elements and surmounted by an inscription.
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