D Fairchild Ruggles
MATRONAGE IN ISLAM
Professor Ruggles is a historian of Islamic architecture and landscape. Her previous work explored the cultural complexity of medieval Islamic Spain and South Asia in the thirteenth through the eighteenth centuries, which led her to investigate the avenues for cultural convivencia, and specifically to look at the intermediary role of nonMuslims who may have served prominently as viziers, physicians, and scholars and, less visibly, as slaves (male and female) and wives.
During her Center appointment, she will work on a book titled Matronage in Islam. The book is a historical study of elite women in Spain, Egypt, Iran, and India, examining their roles as patrons of art, architecture, and landscape. In Islam, where the Qur’an guaranteed women’s inheritance, women could amass fortunes and become important architectural patrons. But the identity expressed in such building depended on the woman’s legal status: A free-born woman might inscribe her building with her name and family genealogy; but a slave concubine, although risen to a position of political power and possibly the mother of the future heir, had no such genealogy and inscribed her building with only her husband’s and sons’ names. Matronage therefore served different interests depending on the woman's legal status and genealogical investment. A question that arises from Matronage is whether works by female patrons reflected a different kind of vision. Did women perceive and shape the world differently from men? How did the social circumstances of a woman’s life affect this putative female vision? Another question is whether the commissions of women patrons reflected personal taste and even innovations in style and design, or whether they—and male patrons as well—merely provided the funds for architects who built according to standard practice.