Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saudi Aramco World and The Raft of the Medusa

Are you familiar with Saudi Aramco World magazine? I wasn’t until I was working on my Istanbul book (and in fact there are several articles in my Istanbul book that originally appeared in Saudi Aramco World). The bi-monthly magazine is quite interesting, and well written, and was founded in 1949, when it was simply called Aramco World (since the July/August 2000 issue the magazine has taken the slightly longer title).

The Saudi Aramco oil company publishes the magazine to “increase cross-cultural understanding,” and its goal is “to broaden knowledge of the cultures, history and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their connections with the West” (I’ve quoted directly from the website). A subscription is complimentary – see the details on the site – and I encourage you take a look (the articles can also be read on-line).  Also, don't miss the virtual walking tours of the Alhambra, Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, and the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the site.

In the current issue, there are two terrific articles that I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do: ‘A Walk Through Historic Arab Paris’ by Nancy Beth Jackson and “The Point of the Arch” by Tom Verde, which traces the Gothic architectural feature of the pointed arch across five countries and as many centuries. It is positively fascinating, and Verde’s journey begins at the trail’s end, “in the city where Gothic architecture was born: Paris.”

Additionally, there is a sidebar in an article about Mauritania entitled 'The Wreck of the Medusa' that includes a little more information than I previously knew -- readers of my Paris book know that I devote pages 485 to 487 in the book to this monumental tragedy.  Romantic painter Theodore Gericault's canvas of the event, 'The Raft of the Medusa,' hangs in the Louvre and it's on my short list of the world's most impressive paintings.  Gericault's tombstone in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery also feaures a relief of the painting.   And as Albert Alhadeff notes in his excellent book The Raft of the Medusa: Gericault, Art, and Race (Prestel, 2002), French historian Jules Michelet "saw represented in the painting 'the shipwreck of France.'" 

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