March 17 - July 18, 1999

The third in a four-part series on Islamic ornament dating from the 9th to the 18th century, The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part III: Geometric Patterns will open on March 17, 1999. Some 25 objects that feature predominantly geometric decoration, drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's own collection — including illuminated manuscripts, rugs, carved and inlaid woodwork, and pottery — reflect the variety of production of Islamic art and the wide range of application of geometric patterns.

The exhibition is made possible by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund.

More about the exhibition
The exhibition identifies the basic vocabulary of geometric ornamentation, which is one of the three non-figural decorations in Islamic art (together with calligraphy and vegetal patterns, which were featured in the first and second portions of the exhibition series, respectively). Consisting of simple figures such as circles, triangles, polygons, and pointed stars, geometric patterns were subsequently combined, duplicated, interlaced, and arranged in complex manners, thus becoming one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Islamic art. By dividing the works into small groups demonstrating the progression of geometric ornament from its appearance in simple patterns to intricate compositions, the exhibition will show how Islamic artists borrowed and then elaborated upon a classical tradition of ornamentation.

Highlights of the exhibition include superb 14th-century doors from Mamluk Egypt, with intricate workmanship on wood using a complex star pattern and ivory inlay; a 17th-century Mughal jali screen in white marble with a motif based on hexagons; and a magnificent 12th-century Qur'an frontispiece with interlaced circles in gold and lapis lazuli.

The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part III: Geometric Patterns is organized by Stefano Carboni, Associate Curator, Department of Islamic Art, with the assistance of Ladan Akbarnia, Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art.

Related exhibition
The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part IV: Figural Decoration will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum from mid-September 1999 through January 2000. The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part I: Calligraphy was exhibited from February 29 to June 28, 1998, and Part II: Vegetal Patterns was on view through January 10, 1999.

January 11, 1999

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