Name of Object:



Uppsala, Sweden

Holding Museum:

Uppsala University Library

Date of Object:

Hegira early 12th century / AD early 18th century

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Oil on canvas; painted.


Height 84.5 cm, width 111.2 cm (without frame)

Period / Dynasty:



Possibly Istanbul, Turkey.


The painting shows a topographical view of Mecca with the Great Mosque in the centre surrounded by the houses of the city and the hills of the Meccan neighbourhood. In the middle of the large open court of the Mosque stands the nearly cubic, black veiled building of the Ka'ba, the holiest sanctuary of Islam. The simple structure of the Ka'ba has been little modified throughout the centuries although the building has been restored, in contrast to the Great Mosque which has been reconstructed several times. The painting depicts a view of it after the Ottoman rebuilding period of the AH 10th century / AD 16th century. Inspired by the imperial architecture of Istanbul, arcades with small domes arranged in a line surround the court on either side and the seven minarets were provided with two or three balconies. The painter has tried to show a town-planning measure of the Ottomans. The old Meccan districts were densely inhabited and the houses reached the exterior walls of the Great Mosque. It was decided to tear down houses that immediately bordered the walls in order to create a large area of open space before the Mosque and its façade, as was the rule within the mosque complexes in Istanbul, Bursa or Edirne.
Representations of Mecca and the Ka'ba illustrate itineraries used by pilgrims for orientation during the hajj or appear on tiles and tile panels of the second half of the AH 11th / AD 17th century to the first half of the AH 12th / AD 18th century. They show detailed descriptions of the function of the different buildings. The dome in front of the Ka'ba on the left side of the minbar (pulpit), for example, covers the footprints of Abraham. The open building beside it houses the Zamzam well whose water the pilgrims drank and took home. The choice of the represented buildings, their arrangement and their execution resemble those of copperplate engravings in European descriptions of Mecca more than depictions of the same scene in contemporary prayer books or on the tiles mentioned above.

View Short Description

Painting showing a topographical view of the city of Mecca with the Great Mosque in the centre surrounded by houses. In the middle of the large open courtyard is the black veiled building of the Ka’ba.

How date and origin were established:

The painting was acquired by the theologian and orientalist Michael Eneman (1676–1714), probably in Istanbul, where he was sent by the Swedish King Charles XII (1682–1718) as his envoy in 1709. After a journey through Syria, Palestine, Sinai, Egypt and Cyprus in 1711 and 1712 he came back once more to Istanbul before he returned to Sweden. It is assumed that the painting is a contemporary work because representations of Mecca and Medina were common at that time.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by Uppsala University Library in 1717.

How provenance was established:

The painting was purchased by the theologian and orientalist Michael Eneman during his stay in Turkey, probably in Istanbul, at the beginning of the 12th / 18th century. At that time, representations of Mecca and Medina were a common subject of Ottoman painting not only in oil but also on tiles or as illustrations of pilgrim and prayer books.

Selected bibliography:

Ådahl, K., “View of Mecca and the Ka'ba”, in Uppsala University Art Collections, Uppsala University, 2001, pp.256–7.
Erdmann, K., “Note. Ka'bah-Fliesen”, Ars Orientalis III, 1959, 192–7.
Faroqhi, S.,Herrscher über Mekka: Die Geschichte der Pilgerfahrt, Düsseldorf; Zürich, 2000.
Gren, E., “Bidrag till Michael Enemans Biografi Studier och Bokförvärv”, Donum Grapeanum, 1945, pp.445–94.
Mostafa, M., Islamische Keramik, Cairo, 1956, figs. 94, 95.

Citation of this web page:

Friederike Voigt "Painting" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;isl;se;mus01_a;37;en

Prepared by: Friederike Voigt
Copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SE 39