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.
Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Among the many surprises in the Deccan area of south-central India is its complex, multicultural society. Persian, Dutch, French, British, Danish, Portuguese, Central Asian, and African peoples all made their way through the region seeking trade and conquest, with some ultimately settling and leaving generations of descendants. Unlike the African movement to other places during this period (the Americas, for example), in the socially mobile culture of the Deccan, Africans migrants were able to rise to the rank of nobility.
Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Deccan Plateau of south-central India was a nexus of international trade and home to a series of important, highly cultured Muslim kingdoms. With cultural connections to Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa, and Europe, Deccani art is particularly celebrated for its unmistakable, otherworldly character. This beautifully illustrated catalogue discusses two hundred of the finest Deccan works and includes extraordinary new photographs of the lush landscapes of the Deccan lands.
Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015
This album contains ten dazzling pages of calligraphic samples written by Shaikh Hamdullah ibn Mustafa Dede, one of the most celebrated Turkish calligraphers. Designed and assembled with great sensitivity to the creation of directional visual energy, the album's complex borders of marbled and dyed papers honor, wrap around, and frame magnificently fluid calligraphic samples. Each page is constructed with a structurally similar layout: large, horizontally placed thuluth or muhaqqaq script serve as headings, while lines of a smaller naskh script are set below, running either horizontally or diagonally. On some pages, small floral medallions are painted in gold, each petal containing green, blue, and red dots, with organic glazes of orange-red pin pricks impressed in clusters of three.
Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
My time as a volunteer in the Department of Islamic Art here at the Met has allowed me to reflect on my experience studying abroad last year in China and gain new perspective on the relationship between cultures that I had not previously considered. While in China, I had the opportunity to visit Kunming, the capital city of the southern Yunnan province. Dubbed the "eternal spring city," most days in Kunming consisted of cloudless blue skies and a light breeze, perfect conditions for exploring the city. While walking around the center of Kunming, I happened to see, among the sea of concrete and glass buildings, a bright-green dome topped with a steel crescent moon. Intrigued, I wove my way through alleyways until I came to the green-domed building. Much to my surprise, the structure was a mosque, bustling with people leaving midday prayer.
Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2015
As part of the exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, on view through July 26, Paris-based photographer Antonio Martinelli was commissioned by the Met to document the land and remains of former Deccan empires in India. Some of these photographs are displayed in an enlarged format across the exhibition's galleries, while many more are printed in the accompanying catalogue. Martinelli's unique sensibility, as well as his background as an architect, photographer, and well-seasoned visitor to India, provide yet another look into the enchanting world of the Deccan. I recently had the chance to sit down with Martinelli to gain some insight into his creative process as a photographer.
Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2015
On Friday, May 15, the Department of Islamic Art hosted independent scholar and Deccan Heritage Foundation Cofounder George Michell for a Friday Focus lecture entitled "Courtly Arts of the Deccan, the Architectural Setting: Forts, Palaces, Mosques, and Tombs of the Deccan." Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, this dynamic lecture stretched across place and time, with Michell highlighting architectural connections between the Deccan plateau, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Since the opening of the exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, on view through July 26, I have been visiting the galleries frequently to examine the fabulous works on display and to take advantage of the magnifying glasses available for use by visitors to really look closely at the artworks. During a recent trip, one Golconda painting in particular, Portrait of a Golden Prince, from the collection of the Musée Guimet, Paris, invited such close inspection.
Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Last year as I helped a curator in the Department of Islamic Art prepare for the exhibition Bazm and Razm: Feast and Fight in Persian Art, I thought about what information we would be able to provide about the paintings and objects on display, and how much we would have to leave out. Iran has an incredibly deep and complex literary tradition that draws influence from a range of sources, including epic poetry, romances, and mystical works. While it would be impossible to give a complete introduction to the literature of Iran, this exhibition provided an opportunity to highlight some key works and familiarize visitors with these stories.
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
I am sometimes met with raised eyebrows when I tell friends that part of what I do here at the Met is research the permanent collection of the Department of Islamic Art. After all, the collection is world famous, and in the century since its formation numerous experts have dedicated time and energy to its care. What more is there to research? One of the joys of working with complex artifacts, however, is that there is often more to be discovered, even if the object is well known and has been carefully documented and described in the past. New ways of looking at art emerge as the tools that curators and conservators have at their disposal become increasingly sophisticated, and, because the field of art history itself is always evolving, the questions that specialists ask of objects also change over time.
Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015
In celebration of the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards exhibition, now on view in the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, the Teen Blog will feature guest posts by Scholastic Gold Key Award writers from New York City through the close of the exhibition on May 17. This week's blogger, Ayesha, was awarded a Gold Key for her personal essay/memoir, "The White Light."