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Department of Middle East Studies pres.

The Prophet as a ‘Sacred Spring'

Christiane Gruber, Professor and Chair in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan

Along with the Prophet’s relics, verbal icons of Muhammad known as hilyes count among the most popular forms of devotional art during the late Ottoman period. While manuscript paintings and compositions mounted on wooden boards have been the subject of scholarly inquiry, an otherwise unknown type of hilye production involves the insertion of verbal icons into glass bottles. Today, three such “hilye bottles” are held in the Topkapı Palace Library in Istanbul, where they remain unstudied and unpublished. This talk aims to present these newly uncovered artworks and explore their possible meanings and functions, among them their acting as a new kind of prophetic pharmacon during the late nineteenth century, at which time Muhammad was concretized and ‘imbibed’ as the ultimate elixir vitae.

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