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MOSQUE OF IBN TULUN
The photographs in the following thirteen lots comprise studies of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, built in Cairo circa 876-879 AD, only around 200 years after the Islamic conquest of Egypt. It is the largest and second oldest mosque in the city and is notable for its scale, its unusual construction methods and detailing and for its spiral minaret, which is unique in Egypt. It was initiated by Ahmed Ibn Tulun, the founder of the Tulunid Dynasty (868 - 905 AD). Ibn Tulun was sent from his native Iraq by the caliph in Baghdad to govern Egypt, and the design is heavily influenced by that of Iraqi mosques at Samarra. It is thought that Iraqi engineers and craftsmen worked on the construction and detailing of the building, which is noted for its stucco on brick construction and remarkable carving. There are 128 carved stucco windows, each with a different design. The large complex of arcades opens onto a courtyard and the bays of the courtyard are defined by large piers with engaged columns at the corners, which is unusual in Egypt. The minaret, added later, is built of stone and has a spiral stair ascending the outside, reminiscent of the ziggurat forms of Iraq. The site is also of significance as it is the boundary between Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.
With its important history, magnificent scale and exquisite detail it is easy to see why the Mosque of Ibn Tulun appealed to Girault de Prangey as a subject to be explored in some depth.
Girault de Prangey was careful to title and number his daguerreotypes for reference on small paper labels stuck to the back of the plates. He sometimes used the same reference number more than once on plates of different sizes, and some plates were either never labelled or have since lost their labels, making it difficult in most instances to attempt to reproduce anything of the precise sequence he followed. The sequence of sixth-plate images comprising lots 30-36 follows the numerical sequence of the artist, with the omission of a single image (Girault de Prangey ref. no. 193, now in the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France) as does the sequence of half-plate images comprising lots 25-29, with the exception of Girault de Prangey ref. no. 132, the whereabouts of which is not known, if indeed it survived. Although he made images in his sixth-plate, half-plate and panoramic formats of this subject he does not appear to have devoted any of his whole-plates to it. Certainly none have been located to date.