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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.

History of the Department

Although the Museum acquired some seals and jewelry from Islamic countries as early as 1874, and a number of Turkish textiles in 1879, it received its first major group of Islamic objects in 1891, as a bequest of Edward C. Moore. Since then, the collection has grown through gifts, bequests, and purchases, as well as through Museum-sponsored excavations at Nishapur, Iran, in 1935–39 and in 1947. Until 1932, when the Department of Near Eastern Art was established, all of these objects were overseen by the Department of Decorative Arts. By 1963, the number of objects had increased to a point that necessitated an official departmental division between the ancient Near Eastern and the Islamic portions of the collection, and the Department of Islamic Art was founded.

Renovation and Reinstallation

On November 1, 2011, the Museum reopened its fifteen galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia, after an eight-year project in which the galleries were renovated and reorganized in accordance with current thinking in the field and with modern museological practices. The galleries had last been renovated and reinstalled in 1975.

View highlights

Arts du monde Islamique (Arts of the Islamic World in French)
January 5, 2015
Free with Museum admission
Arts of the Islamic World
January 5, 2015
Free with Museum admission
Arts of the Islamic World
January 6, 2015
Free with Museum admission

Last updated: Saturday, December 20