In my previous post about the Cappella Palatina muqarnas, I concentrated on the images of the female dancers and musicians. But there are some stunning single portraits of men, the “nadim”,” or drinking courtiers, and there’s wonderful details of their clothing. Let’s take a look.
This first one seems to be of a non-Arab or Berber, perhaps a Greek scribe or scholar, as he seems to be making a point. I am not sure what the halo around his head means in the context. His robe is a deep red, with golden trim; the motifs, as I recall, are either black or a very dark blue, also edged in yellow.
Our next man presents me with a bit of a quandary. Beardless, with feminine side locks, but definitely a man. However, the diwan (chancery) of the Norman Sicilian court was staffed with eunuchs, who had allegedly disavowed Islam for Christianity but were practicing Islam secretly. One of them, Philip of Mahdia, rose to the high post of admiral before being tried and executed for apostasy. If this man is Philip or another eunuch, we’ll never know. But the pattern of his robe is intriguing – what look to me like tiny little hamsas, or hands of Fatima, in an abstract pattern.
This tanbur player is most definitely Arab, with a very interestingly wrapped and tied turban. Note the dot between his eyes, the three tiny dots on his hands and feet. Tattoos and markings for protection? I don’t know. Note his carefully trimmed mustache and beard.
This last image is of a female musician. Her pyramidal hat intrigues me; there are some streamers hanging down in the back.
There seems to be some patterning on the hat. Could it be a cone of gilded leather? The color in the original is a pale yellow, but the palette of the muqarna paintings is rather limited. It’s definitely a very stiff shape, so I don’t think it’s a turban per se, though there my be some headwrap underneath it. If there is a similar hat found elsewhere, or in a later period, please let me know. It’s the only one I noticed in the muqarna images.