Monument or Ornament? Early French architectural histories of Islamic buildings in Egypt

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Mercedes Volait
CNRS Research Professor
Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA)

In 1869, the French publisher Veuve A. Morel and Co. was engaged in the publication of two parallels works illustrating monuments in Egypt. Resulting from surveys made during the 1850s and 1860s, the books quite differ in their method, scope and philosophy. They represent distinct approaches to Islamic architecture in Egypt that can be broadly summarized as engaging with theory vs. engaging with history. In their own ways, both publications indeed address issues and topics that are still of relevance to current scholarship of Islamic art and architecture. Furthermore, they share an evolution towards including objects in their perspective that is worth questioning.

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