Vanishing Art: Art Works Incorporating Religious Prints

Not sure I understand what’s going on here but considering that I’ve spend the last few days re-immersing myself into my research into religious chromolithographs its fascinating: popular religious imagery re-emerging in … oh, well, that’s the bit I’m not sure I understand: “vanishing art.” And, its too late for me to try again, I’m too tired. All I wanted to do was share with you those rather curious images. Enjoy.

al-Buraq an-Nabi (The Buraq of the Prophet), 2010

Note sure I have seen many images closely resembling this one but then, the fact that al-Buraq seems to fly westward may be taken to suggest that this is another illustration originating from South Asia which is simply not my area of, err, ‘expertise’ (in so far my limited insight can be called ‘expertise’ at all). Anyway, it’s interesting: probably the only illustration of al-Buraq I have seen that depicts the animal with blond hair. Not sure this is of any further significance, though.

Founding the Fatimid Order Cairo, NY, August 20, 2010

If I’m not mistaken, the image in question depicts Zuljana or Dhuljanah or Dul Dul, the horse of Husayn ibn Ali. Once more I am handicapped by my lack of Arabic but I am sure I have seen similar images reproduced in poster format in collections of popular Muslim imagery including the volume by Centlivres & Centlivres-Demont and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. The print in the collection of the Tropenmuseum was collected in India. According to the information provided by the museum (in Dutch), the background (the pyramids apart), actually depicts an idealised heavenly garden characterised by a stylistically Indian (Mughal?) building with minarets and a tomb (reference: Debris 2008: 510-12).

Now, why the title of the collage as well as the English-language caption at the bottom of the postcard suggest an Egyptian rather than Indian connection, I really don’t know. Maybe this particular postcard originated in Egypt, maybe its simply artistic freedom (the inclusion of the artist’s initials and surname in the caption would suggest the latter). Equally, I don’t quite understand (but, again, I haven’t quite managed to weave my head around the concept of “vanishing art” the artist, Peter Lamborn Wilson, refers to) why this motif would be considered (part of) a project called “vanishing art.” It seems to me that the production and consumption of similar images continues via Indian street traders and the internet. What really fascinates me about the particular piece used in this artwork, is that it appears to be a postcard. There is even what looks like a postal stamp in the upper left corner. – Seriously, somebody help me out: Is/Was this the only motif available in this format? If not, what other motifs are/were available? Where are/were they produced and predominantly consumed?




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