|رابط التحميل||حجم الملف|
The star like disk.
By Dr. Pola Saverus.
Since the second half of Mamleek era, i. e. , about the end of the fourteenth century A. D. ; a certain kind of the geometrical ornaments has spread in , especially on the wooden screens of the Coptic Churches. This kind has been known, in Arabic, as "Tabuk Nagmi" which means a starlike dish. It is a certain geometrical shape looks as a big circle consists of certain number of small pieces, scattered around a disc resembles a gear or radiated sun. Because this shape looks like a circulated dish, therefore the common artificers in carpentry called it in Arabic "tabbuk nagmi".
This title, in fact, is a colloquial one and has no scientific or historical basis. I would like, here, to throw some lights upon the source of this pattern of decoration and its significance. Some say it is of Arabic Origin, since it has spread in the era of the "slave state" , Mamaleekes period. Actually, Egyptians have known many kinds of decorations since the pre - historical times. Primitive Egyptian had decorated the walls of his cave with many depiction of plants and living beings that drawn from his own environment. Through ages, he had attained a high degree in decorating, as we see in many survived monuments, either in architecture or in sculpture, painting and minute arts. It covered all aspects of daily life either religious or secular, so that you scarcely find an instrument without any kind of decoration.
Thus Pharaonic has stamped great impression upon many human civilisations, even of those who had occupied politically and military, for many centuries. Egyptian artist, in fact, has a wide - hearted and open - minded, so he effected and affected consciously. He adopted some elements from the other civilisations, that concord with his own religious doctrines, beliefs, traditions, social notions, and artistical rules, but he never changed his own Egyptian style.
Therefore, we has found some foreign elements, either Parisian, or Greek or Roman in some monumental pieces; but the style still Egyptian. On taking these foreign elements, he had modified them according to his Egyptian artistical rules. Thus the style was still Egyptian, while the piece had some foreign elements, in Spirit and essence.
Later on, when the foreign authority fighter and neglected the Egyptian art, the Egyptians themselves adopted it at the Roman period. Hence, it became nown as Coptic Art, even the first century before Christ.
No wonder then that Coptic artist inherits all what his ancestors had attained in art, especially that contradicts not with the teachings of Christianity. One of these artistical fields is the woodworks and its decoration which is our subject here. Many of the wooden monumental pieces that have been survived until now, reflect the minuteness, beauty and excellency, either in pharaonic times or in the Coptic era. This wooden - working has been still in the hands of the Copts, that is the Egyptian Christians, even until the beginning of this century.
On studding these pieces carefully, one may notice how the carpenter has known the manners of gathering, dovetailing, turnery and inlaiding. The decorative wooden pieces that have reached us, from the tomb of Hsi - Ra (3 ed. dynasty) and from the tomb of Tout Angh Amon (18 Th. dynasty) and the diverse pieces kept in Coptic Museum in Cairo are some good evidences. This kind of art had shifted to Spain, during the Islamic rule, through Arabs, from Egypt, and was called there "arabisc" , attributing to the Arabs, who used it.
In fact, as we see, it is but an Egyptian art since the Pharaonic times. The Egyptian artist has decorated his woodworks with several decorations, either on the wooden article itself, or by using panels.
It is well evident, that these panels were known, historically, in nearly since the , as we find some of them on a door from the tomb of the aforementioned prince Hasi - Ra; on which the prince had been carved offering his oblations to gods. Ancient Egyptians used also glass, ceramic, ivory and precious stones in decorating these panels. He had also known the manner of interlacing since the modern dynasty, as it is evident, in the monument of the tomb of Tout - Angh - Amon.
Besides he used the inscriptive decoration. Mr. Du Bourgait considers the Coptic era extends up to the eighth century, even after the beginning of the Islamic rule. Thus we can say that the decorations of living being, planted, inscriptive and geometric shapes have prevailed the Egyptian art since pharaonic times until at least the eighth century.
Focusing on the geometrical decorations, one notice that Coptic artist knew the straight and broken lines, waves - like lines, circles: either intersected or tangent interweaved; triangles, square quintuples, hexagons, lozenges, bandages, plaits and spiral shapes. As for the inscriptive decoration, it prevailed during the Coptic era the manner of decorating the Alpha Beta letters with living beings' shapes. Many Islamic art - historians, such as Pr. Hasan el - Basha say that this kind of decorating the letters had been shifted by the converted Copts to Islam, into the Islamic art, from the ancient Coptic manuscripts.
After Islamic rule had been quite firmed in , i. e after eighth century A. D. , Copts extended those kinds of decoration which concord with the new concepts and notions of the authority. These concepts varied, in fact, from one state to another. In Fatimide state, for example, living being's decoration was allowed, but since Mamaleek state ( = state of slaves) this same decoration became forbidden. Thus the geometrical and foliated decorations had reached to their utmost abstraction and modification in this era, Dr. Zaki Hasan says that Islamic art, especially the Egyptian, had adopted the geometrical decoration from the Copts. On forbidding the decoration of living beings, Copts had to modify their ornaments, consequently.
So, since Mamaleek era, living beings' decoration had been substituted by the very foliated and geometrical kinds, especially on the wooden screens of the sanctuaries of the Coptic churches. These expound why the shape so - called "tabuk nagmi" has prevailed during that period. “Starlike disc "is in fact, a kind of decoration consists of certain number of pieces, within thin ribs that surround them. Out of these small pieces, that is panels, we have a circulated geometrical shape which has interiorly numerous rib but outwardly looks as a big dish. Numbers of these panels are either 4 or 8 or 12 or 16 or 20 or 24.
These panels are, in turn, inlaid with ivory or shell, or not. Panels of the screen - door of the principal sanctuary of the monumental church of St. Mary the virgin, in Haret Zawilea within Fatimide Cairo, for example are inlaid with ivory that decorated with fine living beings. This shape in my view, has in fact a Christian basis.
It is but a shape of cross, consisted of broken arms, and has been turned around its centre, a certain number. We know that cross has for arms, so if we turned it once, we shall have 8 parts. If we interlinked their lines, we can have two inter current crosses. And if we turned the cross twice, we shall have by the same way 3 crosses. And so on. Thus we can say that the panels, whose number is 4,8,... ,etc form a modified cross. Now, let us look at the centre of this shape. Once we turned these panels certain number of times, we shall have in the midst of the shape, another one looks like a radiated sun, or as the public say a gear wheel. Therefore, I prefer to call this kind of decoration "the turned cross" to remind us with its source and its significance, instead of the colloquial name "tabuk nagmi".
But we have the same shape whose panels are either 6 or 18 in number, so what does it mean ?. We remember that one of the oldest Christian decoration is the monogram of our Lord Jesus Christ which spread all over Christendom since the fifth century AD.
This monogram is the first Greek letters of the name Jesus Christ, "c" & "I" , interweaved as such X, and it is clearly that it consists six parts. If the shape was 18 pieces, it would have a monogram amidst the times of being turned. Spiritually, I have no need to refer to the significance of the cross as a symbol of salvation and redemption, and a token of the infinitive Divine Love, in the Christian art in general, and especially for Coptic mind. Also the shape of the radiated sun is an artistical reference to what is mentioned in the Holy Bible "but unto you that fear My Name, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings" (Mal. 4: 2).
A matter which has a pre - figure in the ancient pharaonic paintings.
Thus was the mutual action of civilisation on the. As Coptic art has inherited the pharaonic heritage and modified it according to the Christian teachings, so likewise Islamic art, especially the Egyptian one, has adopt what is fit to the Islamic notions of art, from the Coptic heritage, although under new name, such as this geometric shape and the foliated ornament.