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Lesson Plan: Venice and the
Islamic World

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Velvet fragment
Second half of the 16th century
Turkey, Bursa
Silk, metal-wrapped thread; cut and voided velvet, brocaded; 66 x 52 in. (167.6 x 132.1 cm), Wt. 89 lbs. (40.4 kg)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1917 (17.29.10)

Collection Area: Islamic Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Middle School
Topic/Theme: Artistic Exchange


Goals

Students will be able to:
  • recognize evidence of artistic exchange and mutual influence between Venice and the Islamic world in works of art; and 
  • use informational texts as a resource to substantiate inferences.

National Learning Standards

English Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

World History
NSS-WH.5-12.6 Era 6: The Emergence of the First Global Age, 1450–1770


Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Questions for Viewing (Designed to Follow the Suggested Activity)

  • Describe the shapes you see. Of what do they remind you? Why?
  • What do you notice about the way the shapes are organized?
  • What steps might be involved in creating this work? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • How might fabric like this be used in your community? In the Ottoman empire works such as this were used in furnishings (i.e., cushions, curtains, and wall hangings) or clothing; Europeans frequently imported textiles in this style for ceremonial costumes like this robe (fig. 59).
  • Ottoman weavers and other artists frequently used the artichoke-and-leaf motif in the sixteenth century. During this period the artichoke motif was also employed by Venetian artists. A comparison between the featured work of art and a length of velvet reveals subtle variations in the forms (fig. 60). How might motifs travel from one region to the next? Read one or more of the suggested essays (see Resources) to learn more about ties between Venice and the Ottoman empire; compare your findings with the inferences you developed based on close observation of the two works.
  • If someone asked you to create a work of art incorporating the motifs in this design, would you feel stifled or inspired? Why?

Fig. 59. Vestment (chasuble), late 16th century. Italy. Silk, metal, linen; L. 50 in. (127 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the Rembrandt Club, 1911 (2009.300.2953)

Fig. 60. Length of velvet, late 15th century. Italy, Venice. Silk, metal thread; 12 ft. 4 in. x 23 in. (375.9 x 58.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.49.8)


Activity

Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Pencils, 8 1/2 x 11–inch paper for sketching, large paper (8 1/2 x 11 inches or larger, if possible), tracing paper
Subject Area: Visual Arts
Duration: Approximately 60 minutes

Trade and exchange between Venice and the Islamic world prompted artists in both regions to use and adapt designs from one another; a comparison of the featured work of art and the length of velvet (fig. 60) reflects this trend. Create a motif inspired by a work from Venice or the Islamic world:

  1. Fold an 8 1/2 x 11–inch sheet of paper into quarters.
  2. Select a work of art and sketch one small detail in each rectangle on your page.
  3. Trade sketches with a partner.
  4. Look closely at the sketches you received and select one to develop further. Place tracing paper over the drawing you selected. Copy the parts of the design you like best and modify the remaining areas to suit your taste; repeat this process several times using the same base drawing.
  5. After exploring several possibilities, identify the motif you feel is the strongest and share your work with your peers. Use one or more of the motifs developed by you and your classmates to create a pattern on a large sheet of paper; you can reproduce the shapes by placing each drawing face down on the fresh sheet of paper and rubbing the back with the tip of your pencil.
  6. Share your finished work and two or more process sketches with a classmate. Discuss the development of the design and your thoughts on where you might best apply it (for example, on a shirt, wallpaper, or rug) and why.

Resources

Carboni, Stefano, Trinita Kennedy, and Elizabeth Marwell. "Commercial Exchange, Diplomacy, and Religious Difference between Venice and the Islamic World." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

———. "Islamic Art and Culture: The Venetian Perspective." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Ekhtiar, Maryam D., and Claire Moore, eds. Art of the Islamic World: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

Watt, Melinda. "Renaissance Velvet Textiles." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.


Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Vestment (chasuble)
Late 16th century
Italy
Silk, metal, linen; L. 50 in. (127 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the Rembrandt Club, 1911 (2009.300.2953)

Length of velvet
Late 15th century
Italy, Venice
Silk, metal thread; 12 ft. 4 in. x 23 in. (375.9 x 58.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.49.8)

Carlo Crivelli (Italian, active by 1457–died 1493)
Madonna and Child Enthroned
1472
Tempera on wood, gold ground; 38 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (98.4 x 43.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.5)


Author: Adapted from a lesson by classroom teacher Katherine Huala
Date: 2012


RELATED AUDIO FROM THE GALLERY GUIDE

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Walter Denny: Ottoman velvets were for the most part woven not in Istanbul, but in the old Ottoman capital and important provincial center of Bursa. Bursa velvets were used extensively as costumes and vestments by Europeans, especially by Russians. But in the Ottoman Empire, they were used almost exclusively not for costumes, but as furnishing fabrics. Among the most beloved genres of Ottoman furnishing fabrics was the yastik, or flat bolster cover, sometimes with a medallion and sometimes with repeated designs and with a characteristic end finish of lappets or flaplike forms in which small palisades containing flowers—carnations, or tulips, or rosebuds—are frequently visible. These yastiks, or furnishing fabrics, were used to make cushions that would be used on the sofa found as built-in furniture in Ottoman living rooms.

Bursa velvets, unlike Persian velvets, always show us a very limited palette. Generally there is one ground color, overwhelmingly red, with little accents of green, and then the background, which today appears white, in the original was almost always heavily brocaded with silk wrapped in silver.

Thomas P. Campbell: The white would have been brilliant and glistening.

Lamp for the Mausoleum of Amir Aidakin al-'Ala'i al-Bunduqdar

After reading Unit Seven, Chapter Two, you will be able to identify how factors such as trade and diplomacy led to artistic exchange between Venice and the Islamic world during the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries.