Damascene Jewels: Syrian Interiors in ContextAug 31, 2013
Location: Shangri La
Presenter: Dr. Anke Scharrahs, Visiting Scholar
Damascus is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. Preserved in the Old City of Damascus are approximately three to four thousand historic, private houses of the late 17th through 19th centuries, ranging from small and simple residences to large opulent mansions. The interior spaces of these private houses were adorned with sophisticated decoration including opus sectile, tinted plaster, polychrome stone reliefs, murals, mother-of-pearl inlays, tiles, polychrome wooden paneling and ceilings, mirrors, stained glass and gypsum windows and textiles. The most lavishly adorned rooms of Arab homes were used as reception rooms for guests, reflecting the cultivation and taste as well as the wealth and social status of the owner-builder. The complex decoration in such interiors has been subject of extensive study and documentation by Scharrahs, revealing the almost-forgotten original color scheme and interior and intended appearance, now often obscured by deterioration or later alterations. This lecture introduces some of the hidden jewels or original interior decoration in Damascene homes and give an insight into the current situation of using and living in these houses.
Dr. Anke Scharrahs, visiting scholar at Shangri La from August 24-September 13, conducted research on the Damascus Room. Scharrahs is a conservator specializing in polychrome wooden surfaces with a special interest in Islamic art and has a Ph.D from the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, Germany. She has been engaged in research and conservation of Syrian-Ottoman interiors for 15 years, both in museum collections and in historic houses in Germany, New York, and Damascus. She is the author of the book Ajami Interiors: Forgotten Jewels of Interior Design published in 2013.