Sunday, June 07, 2009

Islamic Art showcased in new exhibit in Madrid

This exhibit sounds fascinating. Unfortunately, I don't have time this year to travel to Spain to see it. But, I was excited to read that many of the items in it will be eventually housed in a new museum in Toronto, Canada! Some years ago I attended an exhibit of items from the Ottoman Empire at the Portland Art Museum. It was comprised mostly of ornamental weapons and manuscripts. This exhibit includes figural items to help refute the widespread misconception that animal or human motifs are prohibited in Islamic art. Although figural art is prohibited in buildings or objects related to religion, they were used profusely to adorn administrative or private structures or objects.

[Image - although not in the Madrid exhibit, this cast bronze lion in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York demonstrates a blending of Islamic, Byzantine and western artistic traditions. Originally gilded and inlaid, the lion was cast in 1000-1100 CE probably in South Italy. It is inscribed in Arabic in Kufic script. Photo by Mary Harrsch.]

I was particularly interested in the inclusion of art from the Mogul Empire. I watched an excellent program about the Moguls on the History Channel and have been reading quite a bit lately about the conquests of Genghis Khan and his successors. I also enjoyed the film, "Mongol". It is supposed to be the first installment of a trilogy and I look forward to the sequels. I regret that when I was in England again last summer I didn't have time to travel to Leeds to view the only remaining complete set of Mogul elephant armor in the world. Maybe it will be included in a traveling exhibit someday!

I encourage you to click on the link to the full article below. It is quite extensive and most informative!

The art, the history, the traditions and the geographies of the Islamic world from the Far East to the Iberian Peninsula are the subjects of the exhibition The Worlds of Islam in the Aga Khan Museum Collection. Organised by ”la Caixa” Social and Cultural Outreach Projects in association with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, it contains some of the finest productions, not only of the Islamic sphere, but of universal art, with the common denominator of the Arabic language and the Muslim religion. The Aga Khan Museum Collection includes valuable and important pieces from the historical dynasties of the Muslim world. They describe the magnificence of the courts of the Abassids, Fatimids, Safavids or Moguls and show the ductility of Islamic art, capable of conveying a message, not always a religious one, adopting different styles and combining elements from different cultural traditions: from Roman to Persian, from Turkish to Chinese, from Mahgrebi to Hindu, transforming what it imitated and giving it a personality of its own.

The exhibition, which can be seen at CaixaForum Madrid until 6 September, presents a set of 190 objects spanning 1400 years of history and summarizing, in wood, stone, gold, bronze, ivory, glass, ceramic, fabric, parchment and paper, the finest artistic accomplishments of a world that stretched from ancient al-Andalus to India.

The exhibition presents the different Islamic dynasties, with their radiuses of territorial influence, which appeared in the wake of the dismembering of the Abbasid caliphate in the late 9th century: the Omeyas (al-Andalus), the Fatimids and the Mamelukes (Egypt), the Ottomans (Turkey), the Safavids and Qajars (Iran) and the Moguls (India). The Fatimid court was outstanding for its opulence, as some of the pieces of jewelry on show bear witness. The essential features of Islamic court culture are traced through a generic portrait of the profile of their sovereigns. Emphasis is placed on the high cultural level of the Islamic courts that were responsible for spreading knowledge of Ancient Greece to the West through their Arabic translations.

The exhibition also reflects some of the fundamental features of Islamic architecture, such as a capital in the Roman tradition with Islamic ornamental motifs, as well as carved wooden beams and doors. The outstanding examples of painting are to be found in the books illustrated with miniatures and the portraits of kings and sultans. - More: