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Document Details :
Title: Frescoes in the Muslim residence and bathhouse Qusayr 'Amra
Subtitle: Representations, some of the Dionysiac cycle, made by Christian painter from Egypt
Author(s): VAN LOHUIZEN-MULDER, Gert-Jan
Volume: 73 Date: 1998
In the desert, about eighty kilometers to the East of Amman, lies Qusayr ‘Amra, a small building, as the name is indicating. It belongs to the group of so-called desert castles. It consists of a bathcum- audience hall, fully decorated with a wealth of frescoes, some rather enigmatic. The representation of nude and semi-nude dancers, musicians and some other nude rather impressive women is not so common in an Islamic building from the eighth century A.D., although one cannot uphold the view that the representation of human figures in a secular building is forbidden in the Koran.1 But it is true that, apart from the palace buildings Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho and Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi in Syria both with baths, no other Umayyad building from the seventh or eighth century is found with such a wealth of representations of human beings.
A definite answer to questions about who was the patron and the owner of the building, about the style of the frescoes and the origin of the artists and about the iconography has still to be given. Many scholars of Islamic art and culture and among them one of the greatest, Oleg Grabar, have written important and in some respect revealing articles on these frescoes. I know that a new attempt to try to come a little further in explaining these paintings is very daring. Being well aware of the importance of these representations in the context of a better understanding of early-Islamic art gave me the courage to undertake further research.