Image Archive and Research Platform for the Islamic, Ancient and Christian Orient


Some research projects are presented here, linked to images from the image archive. Various related publications are accessible  on



Lang term research projects 


Islamic Art Historiography

Special attention is given to the first generation of Islamic Art Historians (even before this term was generally used) and their impact on the History of Islamic Art & Architecture: e.g. the researcher, travelor, collector and first director of the "Islamic Department" of the Royal Museums at Berlin (today Museum of Islamic Art of the State Museums at Berlin) Friedrich Paul Sarre (1865-1945), who's 150. anniversary in 2015 has been celebrated, as well as the genious, but also very controversal art historian Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941). 

In addition, cross connections, i. e. networks that also include lesser-known names will be shown. In the course of time, a comprehensive index of first German-speaking researchers (born before 1914) from the fields of Islamic art history, architecture and archeology with biographical information, bibliographical references and pictorial material will emerge. 

Islamic Art Historians  



Bode, Wilhelm

Wilhelm (von) Bode (1845-1929) 

Wilhelm (from) Bode, director-general of the Royal Museums in Berlin since 1905, had started early to collect Islamic carpets in Italy. He has the great merit of having initiated an Islamic department at the Berlin Museums.  He also inspired the young Friedrich Sarre for the Islamic art history and later won him as director of the newly founded department (1904).



Gurlitt, Cornelius

Cornelius Gurlitt (1850-1938)

German Art Historian and Architect, b. 1.1.1850 in Nischwitz near Wurzen (Saxonia), d. 25.3.1938 in Dresden. 1890 Habilitation at the TH Charlottenburg, from 1893 until 1920 Professor of History of Architecture at the TH Dresden. Gurlitt has been known for his works on baroque, rococo und classcism, his works on Islamic / Ottoman Architecture are widely unknown to the public, and are not mentioned in the DBE (Deutschen Bibliographischen Enzyklopädie) at all.

Works (related to History of Islamic Architecture):

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die Baukunst Konstantinopels. Berlin 1907, 2. Aufl. 1912

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die Bauten Adrianopels, in: Orientalisches Archiv 1, 1910-11, 51-60

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die islamitischen Bauten von Isnik (Nicaea), in: Orientalisches Archiv 3, 1912-13, 49-60 

Cornelius Gurlitt: Mode und Kunstrichtung, in: Deutsche Revue. Eine Monatsschrift, hrsg. v. Richard Fleischer (Leipzig, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), Jg. 46, September 1921, ***.

Obituaries/ appraisals:

J. Haarman, Gurlitt als Hochschullehrer, in:  Neudt. Bauztg. 1919, S. 268

P. Klopfer, Gurlitt als Hochschullehrer, in:  Neudt. Bauztg. 1919, S. 270 


DBE 4, 263 (NDB) 


J. Gierlichs, Islamische Kunstgeschichte an deutschen Universitäten, in: J. Gierlichs u. A. Hagedorn (Hrsg.): Islamische Kunst in Deutschland (2004), S. 29



Strzygowski, Josef

Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941)

Josef Strzygowski was one of the most versatile and at the same time most controversial art historians of the first half of the 20th century. On the occasion of his 150th birthday in 2012, two major symposia were held, in spring in Biala, his birthplace (formerly Galicia, today Bielsko in Poland) and in October in Vienna, organized by the Society for Comparative Art Research, Josef Strzygowski founded in 1934.

The contributions of both conferences were published together in one volume: see Piotr O. Scholz (Hrsg.), Von Biala nach Wien. Josef Strzygowski und die Kunstwissenschaften, Akten der internationalen wissenschaftlichen Konferenzen zum 150. jährigen Geburtstag von Josef Strzygowski [Bielsko-Biala / Wien 2012] 2015. In this volume there is a so far unpublished, very well balanced obituary on Josef Strzygowski written by Alfons Maria Schneider (1896-1952), ed. by Joachim Gierlichs with an introduction by Alexander Zäh.

On Josef Strzygowski see also the entry in Wikipedia (which might change over the time!) as well as the contributions by Alexander Zäh, e.g. A. Zäh, Josef Strzygowski als Initiator der christlich-kunsthistorischen Orientforschung und Visionär der Kunstwissenschaft, mit Beiträgen von Helmut Buschhausen und Christina Maranci, Römische Quartalsschrift für Christliche Altertumskunde (RQ) 107.2 (2012) S. 105-148.



Schulz, Philipp Walter

Philipp Walter Schulz (1864-1920)

Philipp Walter Schulz, born in Leipzig in 1864, came from a wealthy family (his father was a merchant and banker), which later enabled him as a private scholar to devote himself to the study of Islamic book art. He published a groundbreaking work for his time "Die persisch-islamische Miniaturmalerei: Ein Beitrag zur Kunstgeschichte Irans" (Hirsemann, Leipzig 1914)", unfortunately the recognition was long denied. A small part of his former collection is still kept in two museums in Leipzig.  

Additional Information is to be found in Philipp Walter Schulz and Friedrich Sarre: Two German Pioneers in the Development of Persian Art Studies




Cohn-Wiener, Ernst

Ernst Cohn-Wiener (1882-1941)

Ernst Cohn-Wiener (until 1907 Cohn), born in Tilsit in 1882, was a versatile art historian who not only dealt with European, Jewish and Islamic art history, but also researched and published on Asian art in general. In particular, his 1930 published work on the architecture of Central Asia in Islamic times is known in professional circles (Turan: Islamic architecture in Central Asia, Berlin 1930), which still has lasting value because of the numerous good photographs from the 1920s. 

Because of his Jewish origin, Ernst Cohn-Wiener had to leave Germany after a ban on his profession in 1934. Via England he went to India, where he found employment with the Maharaja of Baroda until 1939 (in the National Picture Gallery). From there he migrated to the United States in 1939, and died in 1941 in New York, not yet 60 years old.

Today largely forgotten, not even a portrait of him was accessible until recently. The photo presented here is due to the architect Ruslan Muradov from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, who discovered it with descendants of a Russian researcher who worked together with Cohn-Wiener in Central Asia.




Otto-Dorn, Katharina

Katharina Otto-Dorn (1908-1999)

Katharina Otto-Dorn (b. Käthe Dorn) stood in direct succession of the founding generation of Islamic Art History, scholars and researchers as Friedrich Sarre (1865-1945) and Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941), her supervisor in Vienna, where she was awarded with a doctorate (dissertation thesis on Sassanian Silverware in 1933).  

Katharina Otto-Dorn received her practical training under Ernst Kühnel (1882-1964) at the Islamic Department of the Berlin Museums, from where she first went to Istanbul in 1935 with a short scholarship. There she remained in different positions until 1944, when all Germans had to leave the country or were interned. After her habilitation in Heidelberg in 1948 she taught from 1954-1967 first as the first Professor of Islamic Art History in Ankara, later in Los Angeles (1967-1978 at UCLA). At the end of the 1980s, she returned from there to Heidelberg, where she continued to work on topics of Islamic art history until shortly before her death in 1999.

To one of her photo archives Archive Katharina Otto-Dorn Turkey - Beysehir, Esrefoglu Cami

More information can be found in the obituary by Joachim Gierlichs in der Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 152/1, 2002, 5-9. Online here.

An expanded version in English with some illustrations has been published as: "In Memoriam Katharina Otto-Dorn": A life dedicated to Turkish Islamic Art and Architecture, in: M. Kiel, N. Landman & H. Theunissen (eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Turkish Art (ICTA), Utrecht - The Netherlands, August 23-28, 1999, in: EJOS IV (2001), No. 21, pp. 1-14. Online on Academia.

Note: The on-line Journal EJOS (Electronical Jourrnal of Oriental Studies), in which the Proceedings of the 11th International Congres of Turkish Art (ICTA) held in Utrecht in 1999 have been published, does not exist any more.






Timurid Woodwork

Woodwork of the Timurid Period in Iran and Central Asia

The project “Retrieving the past, shaping the future: The woodwork of fourteenth to sixteenth century Iran and Central Asia in its cultural and historical context” aims to analyze and interpret a larger collection of a specific type (kind/ genre) of material culture which has been produced in Iran and Central Asia mainly during the Timurid period (c. 1370 to c. 1510). 

While only few woodcarvings from a secular context have survived, the bulk of material, mainly doors, grills (mashrabiyas), minbars and cenotaphs, belongs or belonged to religious buildings, mosques, madrasas and mausolea, the latter ones often shrines of descendants of the Imams, spreading all over Iran, but with a strong focus in the northern provinces of Mazandaran and Gilan, rich on trees and therefor on wood, too. 

Many objects contain inscriptions at various length providing beyond religious texts (Qur’an, Hadith among others) historical information as the name of the patron, the name(s) of the wood worker(s) (najjar) and the date when the object has been produced allowing to prepare a framework of dated woodwork during the 14th to 16th centuries. 

Beyond its historical and art historical approach, this project also has a heritage related aspect: the ”virtual protection” of material which has been and still is under permanent threat to be neglected, over-restored or stolen.

See List of visited shrines / Imamzadeh in Iran 1995

See "Tabrizi Woodcarvings in Timurid Iran" accesible on Academia.

Link to the on-line project/ database



Figurative Architectural Decoration

Figurative reliefs in medieval Islamic architectural decoration

A further focus of research is the figurative reliefs in the medieval Islamic architectural decoration (Seljuks, Artuqids a.o.) and their meaning. The topic was extensively discussed in the PhD thesis (Heidelberg 1991) "Mittelalterliche Tierreliefs in Anatolien und Nordmesopotamien - Untersuchungen zum figürlichen Baudekor der Seldschuken, ... " (Tübingen 1996).

For their interpretation see synoptical: Joachim Gierlichs, "A victory monument in the name of Sultan Malik Shah in Diyarbakir – Medieval figural reliefs used for political propaganda ?", in: Islamic Art (eds. E. J. Grube - E. Sims), vol. 6, 2009, 51-79. To the Article on



Current research projects


Bosporus Wall Paper

The Bosphorus wallpaper by Josef Dufour in the castle Herrnsheim near Worms


As part of the renovation of Schloss Herrnsheim near Worms, built by Emmerich Josef von Dalberg (1777-1833) at the beginning of the 19th century, this research project (awarded by the cultural department of the city of Worms) aims to identify possible models for the "Bosphorus landscape”. It examines the extent to which real views of Constantinople / Istanbul may have served as inspiration for the image wallpaper created in Paris by Joseph Dufour (1752-1827).

The results are to be published.







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