Photo of Gulru Necipoglu

Gülru Necipoğlu

Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art

Director of the Aga Khan Program of Islamic Architecture



Gülru Necipoğlu FBA has been the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture since 1993 at Harvard University’s History of Art and Architecture Department, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1986 and started teaching as an Assistant Professor. She specializes in the arts and architecture of the pre-modern Islamic lands, with a focus on the Mediterranean. She is interested in questions of aesthetic cosmopolitanism, transregional connectivities between early modern Islamicate empires (Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Iran, Mughal India), and cross-cultural artistic exchanges with Byzantium and Renaissance Europe. Her studies have also addressed architectural practice from Timurid-Turkmen to early modern empires (15th-17th centuries), with a focus on plans and drawings, the aesthetics of abstract ornament, and geometric design. Her critical interests encompass methodological and historiographical issues in modern constructions of the field of Islamic art.

Professor Necipoğlu is the editor of the journal Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World (Brill, vols. 10-37) and Supplements to Muqarnas (vols. 9-14). Her books include: Architecture, Ceremonial and Power: The Topkapı Palace (MIT, 1991); The Topkapı Scroll–Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (Getty, 1995: Winner of “Albert Hourani Book Award” of the Middle East Studies Association; and the “Spiro Kostof Book Award for Architecture and Urbanism,” by the Society of Architectural Historians); The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (Reaktion, 2005, 2011: Winner of “Fuat Köprülü Book Prize” awarded by the Turkish Studies Association).

She recently edited the following volumes: Treasures of Knowledge: An Inventory of the Ottoman Palace Library (1502/3-1503/4) (Brill, 2 vols., 2019, coeditors Cemal Kafadar and Cornell H. Fleischer); The Arts of Ornamental Geometry: A Persian Compendium on Similar and Complementary Interlocking Figures (Brill, 2017: Winner of the “26th World Award for Book of the Year,” awarded by the Iran Ministry of Culture and Book Award Secretariat); A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, in the Wiley-Blackwell Companions to Art History (coeditor F. Barry Flood, 2017); and Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local (Princeton, coeditor Alina Payne, 2016).

Professor Necipoğlu is an elected member of the British Academy, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Archittettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza, Italy.  She was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art in the University of Cambridge, with an affiliation at Pembroke College in 2013; and Guest Faculty Scholar at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of Florence in 2014.



Ph.D. Dissertations advised by Prof. Necipoğlu (first reader):

  • M. Winter, “Silks Withdrawn: A Re-Contextualization of the Medieval Fragments from Rayy,” Ph.D. (in progress 2020)
  • M. Xenia Schwerda, “How Photography Changed Politics: The Case of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911),” Ph.D. 2020
  • G. Collaço, “The Image as Commodity: The Commercial Market for Single-Folio Paintings in Ottoman Istanbul, 17th-18th century,” Ph.D. 2020
  • A. Stockstill, “North African and Berber Identity in Almohad Imperial Architecture,” Ph.D. 2018
  • F. Emami, “The New Isfahan: City Experience in the Safavid Capital, 1590-1722,” Ph.D. 2017
  • M. Taner, “‘Between the Persians and the Rum, what woe befell us:’ Painting in Baghdad in the Late 16th- early 17th Century,” Ph.D. 2016
  • D. Türker, “Ottoman Victoriana: Nineteenth-Century Sultans and the Making of a Palace, 1836-1909,” Ph.D. 2016
  • A. Botchkareva, "Representational Naturalism in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Changing Visual Cultures in Mughal India and Safavid Iran, 1580-1730," Ph.D. 2014
  • Y. Al-Saleh, "'Licit Magic': The Touch and Sight of Islamic Talismanic Scrolls," Ph.D. 2014
  • U. Rustem, "Architecture for a New Age: Imperial Ottoman Mosques in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul," Ph.D. 2013
  • S. Yalman, “Religion, Urbanism and Identity in the Architectural Patronage of Sultan ‘Ala al-Din Kayqubad (r.1220-1237),” Ph.D. 2010
  • J. Pruitt, “Fatimid Architectural Patronage and Changing Sectarian Identities (969-1021),” Ph.D. 2009
  • C. Dadlani, “Twilight of the Mughals? Architecture and Aesthetics in the Late Mughal Empire,” Ph.D. 2009
  • L. Akbarnia, “Beauty in the Beast: the transmission of chinoiserie from China to Iran and the creation of artistic ideals and cultural memory under the Mongol patrons,” Ph.D. 2007
  • S. Wolf, “The Construction of Ottoman Aleppo: Modes and Meanings of Urban (Re-) Organization,” Ph.D. 2005
  • E. Fetvacı, “Viziers to Eunuchs: Transitions in Ottoman Manuscript Patronage, 1566–1617,” Ph.D. 2005
  • Z. Yürekli Görkay, “Bektashi Architecture and the Turcoman Forces in Classical Ottoman Society,” Ph.D. 2005
  • P. Berlekamp, “Wonder and Its Images in Late Medieval Islamic Culture: The Wonders of Creation from the Euphrates to the Oxus, 1258–1502,” Ph.D. June 2003
  • M. Farhat, “Displaying Piety: The Shrine of Imam Ali al-Rida in Mashhad under the Safavids,” Ph.D. December 2002
  • B. Wood, “Shah Isma'il in Myth and Memory,” Ph.D. June 2002
  • O. Pancaroğlu, “A World Unto Himself: Human Images in the Late Seljuk Period (1150–1250),” Ph.D. June 2000
  • A. Ersoy, “On the Sources of the Ottoman Renaissance: Architectural Revivalism and its Discourse in the Abdulaziz Era (1861–76),” Ph.D. June 2000
  • C. Kafescioğlu, “The Ottoman Capital in the Making: The Reconstruction of Constantinople in the Fifteenth Century,” Ph.D. November 1996
  • E.D. Hermann, “Urban Formation and Landscape: Symbol and Agent of Social, Political, and Environmental Change in Fourteenth-Century Nasrid Granada,” Ph.D. June 1996
  • G. Bailey, “Jesuit Missionaries in India and Their Impact on Mughal Visual Culture,” Ph.D. June 1996

M.A. Degrees advised by Prof. Necipoğlu:

  • Z. Oğuz, “Early Ottoman T-Type Socio-Religious Complexes under Murad I”
  • L. Schick, “16th- and 17th-Century Ottoman Costume Albums: European and Local Productions and Their Markets”
  • A. Sornin, “Architectural Culture in Mughal India: the Building Workshop of the Kachawa Court in Amber and Jaipur”

Ph.D. Dissertations advised by Prof. Necipoğlu (second reader):

  • (Advisor A. Payne): C. Rachele, Building Through the Paper: Architectural Disegno in the Italian Renaissance,” 2015
  • (Advisor A. Payne): E. Kassler-Taub, “At the Threshold of the Mediterranean: Architecture, Urbanism, and Identity in Early Modern Sicily,” 2017
  • (Advisor I. Kalavrezou): K. Harrison, “Byzantine Icons in Semi-Precious Stone,” 2015
  • (Advisor S. Blier): K. VanDyke, “The Oral-Visual Nexus: Rethinking Visuality in Mali,” 2006
  • (Advisor S. Blier): Sandy (Prita) Meier, “Local Cityscapes and Transcultural Imaginaries: Competing Architectures of Mombasa,” 2007
  •  (Advisor S. Blier): M. DeLancey, “Representing Rulership: Palace Architecture, Spatial Orientation, Ritual Movement, and Secrecy in Northern Cameroon,” 2005
  • (Advisor J. Sherman): S. Spinale, “The Portrait Medals of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (R. 1451–1481),” 2003
  • (Advisor J. Sherman): D. Drogin, "Representations of Bentivoglio Authority: Fifteenth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Bentivoglio Chapel, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna", 2002
  • (Advisor P. Chandra): A. Patel, “The “Sultanate” Architecture of Gujarat: A Case Study in Scholarship on Islam in India,” 2000
  • (Advisor O. Grabar): R. Foote, “Early Islamic Trade Centers” 1994–95
  • (Advisor O. Grabar) T. Swelim, “The Mosque of Ibn Tulun: A New Perspective” 1994
  • (Advisor O. Grabar) H. al-Harithy, “Urban Form and Meaning in Bahri Mamluk Architecture” 1992
  • (Advisor O. Grabar) N. Khoury, “The Mihrab Concept: Palatial Themes in Early Islamic Religious Architecture,” 1992
  • (Advisor O. Grabar) Z. Ali, “Islamic Art and Architecture in Malaysia,” 1990
  • (Advisor I. Winter): A. Shafer, “Royal Rhetoric on the Periphery: Neo-Assyrian Stelae and Rock Reliefs of the First Millennium B.C.”

Ph.D. Dissertations advised by Prof. Necipoğlu (supervised in other Harvard departments, or other Universities):

  • (Advisors: Harvard, Department of South Asian Studies: Gülru Necipoğlu; Boston University: Sunil Sharma; University of Southern California: James McHugh) Nicolas Roth, “Marigolds and Munshīs: Horticultural Writing and Garden Culture in Mughal South Asia, 2020
  • (Advisors: NELC & History, Bill Granara, Roy Mottahedeh), Ali Asgar H. Alibhai, “Through the Eyes of Jūdhar: Reconstructing the World of a Tenth-Century Medieval Chamberlain,” 2018
  • (Advisors: Ethem Eldem and Ahmet Ersoy, Bosphorus University, Istanbul), Nilay Özlü, “Transformation of the Topkapi Palace (1808-1924): From Saray-i Cedide-i Amire to the Topkapi Palace Museum,” 2017
  • (Advisor: Cemal Kafadar, Harvard, CMES & History), Jesse Howell, “The Ragusa Road: Mobility and Encounter in the Ottoman Balkans (1430-1700,” 2017(Advisor: Cemal Kafadar, Harvard, CMES & History), Jesse Howell, “The Ragusa Road: Mobility and Encounter in the Ottoman Balkans (1430-1700,” 2017
  • (Advisor: Cemal Kafadar, Harvard, CMES & History), Aleksandar Sopov, “Change and Urban Agriculture in the Eastern Mediterranean (1500 - 1700),” 2016
  • (Advisors Eve Blau and Antoine Picon, Harvard Graduate School of Design) Peter Christensen, “Railway Urbanism, Railway Orientalism: Architecture and the Ottoman Rail Network, 1870-1919,” 2014
  • (Advisor Catherine B. Asher, University of Minnesota) Sinem Arcak Casale, “Gifts in Motion: Ottoman-Safavid Gift-Exchange, 1501-1618,” 2012
  • (Advisor T. Leisten, Princeton) Particia Blessing,  “Reframing the Lands of Rum: Architectural and Style in Eastern Anatolia, 1240-1320," 2012
  • (Advisor Christine Smith, Harvard Graduate School of Design), Steven C. Wolf, “The Construction of Ottoman Aleppo: Modes and Meanings of Urban (Re-) Organization,” 2005
  • (Advisor I. Manners, University of Texas at Austin): Kay Ebel, “Images of Empire: Cartography and the Visual Culture of Urban Space in the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Empire,” 2002
  • (Advisor, Nasser Rabbat, M.I.T.): Kishwar Rizvi, “Transformations in Early Safavid Architecture: The Shrine of Shaykh Safi al-din Ishaq Ardabili in Iran (1501–1629),” 2000
  • (Advisor R. Holod, University of Pennsylvania): L. Thys-Senocak, “The Yeni Cami Complex (1597–1663)”, 1994
  • (Advisor, Cemal Kafadar, Harvard University, History): Shirine Hamadeh, “The City's Pleasures: Architectural Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul


Gülru Necipoğlu's Website

Gülru Necipoğlu's Office Hours

Muqarnas Website


Brill's Author In Focus

Brill announced that Professor Necipoğlu is the Middle East and Islamic Studies Author In Focus (November 2011)