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Islamic Art

Damascus Room

The Museum's collection of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the nineteenth century. Its nearly twelve thousand objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. Comprising sacred and secular objects, the collection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices such as calligraphy, and the exchange of motifs such as vegetal ornament (the arabesque) and geometric patterning in both realms.

Now at the Met

Rites of Passage in the Indian Jewelry Tradition

Courtney A. Stewart, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In this painting, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan sits with his young son Dara Shikoh, holding a red gem in his right hand and a small tray of colored gems in his left. This intergenerational portrait illustrates the important Indian tradition of transferring gems among family members. Jewels are among the most important possessions in an estate and, when inherited, they are usually remounted or set by the recipient.

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Now at the Met

Taking Stock of the Department of Islamic Art's 2014 Acquisitions

Julia Cohen, Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of my regular tasks as a research assistant is to enter information about new acquisitions into the collections management database of the Department of Islamic Art. Slower-paced than some of my other responsibilities, it gives me an opportunity to study the works that the department has obtained in the past year. And during the holidays, when our offices were a bit quieter, I had the chance to really take a look at our latest acquisitions.

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Now at the Met

Arabic at the Met: Adventures in Translation from alif to ya'

Matt Saba, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015

Recent visitors to the Met may have noticed more Arabic throughout the building. Magnificent specimens of Arabic calligraphy have always been on display in our galleries, along with examples in Persian and Ottoman Turkish, but the Museum has recently taken on the task of translating educational materials into Modern Standard Arabic (MSA, or al-Lugha al-'Arabiyya al-Fusha in Arabic), a language spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

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Now at the Met

In the Stars: Gems and the Indian Tradition

Courtney A. Stewart, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In North America, we have a rather superficial relationship with gemstones. You may be aware that your birth month is connected with a gem—your "birthstone"—but what's the point of this connection? For most of us, the only gem we associate with any real symbolic value is a diamond, reserved for nuptial engagements as a symbol of commitment, but even this is a very recent affiliation stemming from a 1947 De Beers ad campaign "A Diamond is Forever."

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Now at the Met

The Architectural Ornament of Abbasid Samarra: Newly Released Depictions by Ernst Herzfeld

Matt Saba, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014

The Department of Islamic Art is excited to announce the release of new records from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers, part of the department's archival collections. Herzfeld was a German archaeologist and historian considered to be one of the field's founding fathers. The department began to publish records from the Herzfeld Papers online this summer; the records in this latest upload consist of Herzfeld's watercolors and drawings depicting fragments of architectural ornament he excavated at Samarra, the ninth-century capital of the Abbasid dynasty located in today's Iraq.

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Now at the Met

Looking Closely: An Unexpected Discovery in the Islamic Collection

Fatima Quraishi, 2014–15 Hagop Kevorkian Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

As a new curatorial research fellow in the Department of Islamic Art, I am becoming acquainted with many different aspects of museum life such as museum education and exhibition practices, but I spend most of my time researching our rich collection of Islamic art objects. I've recently been examining a large group of wooden panel pieces, many of which were parts of minbars (pulpits) in mosques in Egypt during the Mamluk period (1250–1517)—some of these are on display in gallery 454. In this group, I came across a rectangular panel (shown above) that is inlaid with carved ivory and bears an inscription in Arabic.

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Now at the Met

A Ninth-Century Miss Manners: Dining Etiquette in Abbasid Iraq

Julia Cohen, Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2014

With the weather getting colder and Thanksgiving now upon us, my mind has turned to food. Hearty soups, roasted vegetables, and freshly baked bread warm my spirits during the winter months, and there is little I enjoy more than inviting friends and family to join me for meals.

Food and drink are central to celebrations throughout the world, and objects in the Islamic Art collection can tell us so much about people's lives. The tradition of feasting to commemorate important events dates back to pre-Islamic times, both in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The Islamic galleries are filled with serving dishes, storage jars, and drinking vessels that provide a window into the everyday life and celebrations of the many Islamic dynasties represented here.

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Now at the Met

Former Incarnations: The Secret Lives of Objects in Treasures from India

Courtney A. Stewart, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Works of art at the Met are often presented in isolation to give the viewer an opportunity to examine them closely and appreciate their artistic merit, fine craftsmanship, use of materials, and other details. Because of these objects' (near) impeccable state when exhibited, I sometimes forget they have lived entire lives before arriving at the Museum and often have passed through many hands and traveled long distances. Indeed, the life of an object is so much richer, more complicated, and more convoluted than its shining presence in a display case can convey.

While researching the objects selected for the exhibition Treasures from India: Jewels from The Al-Thani Collection (on view through January 25, 2015), I was continually inspired by these histories and fascinated by the winding paths these works had taken before their arrival in our galleries.

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Now at the Met

Conservation Through a Gamer's Eye

Ashira Loike, Assistant Administrator, Department of Objects Conservation; and Beth Edelstein, Associate Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014

What happens when gaming students are let loose on the Met's collection? We found our answer to this question this past spring when staff from the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation collaborated with a group of intrepid and creative students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The students were supervised by their professor, Elizabeth Goins, in a course titled "Interactive Design for Museums," part of RIT's Museum Games & Technology Initiative. The students were tasked with communicating the inside information conservators gather from studying the materials and techniques of works of art through a fun and engaging game aimed at general audiences.

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Teen Blog

A Guard's Regard

Lizzie, Former High School Intern

Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014

A person can have an individual relationship with art, but at The Metropolitan Museum of Art there is often a third party involved when strolling through the galleries: the security guard. It didn't take me long to realize how wise the guards at the Met are: Many of these men and women are extremely curious about art and how it is perceived, and therefore take advantage of being in one of the world's greatest museums during their work day.

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