Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Pair of Doors Carved in the 'Beveled Style'

Object Name:
Pair of doors
Date:
9th century
Geography:
Found Iraq, probably Takrit. From Iraq, probably Samarra
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Wood (teak); carved
Dimensions:
H. 86 1/2 in. (221 cm) W. 20 1/4 in (51.4 cm) Combined W. 41 1/4 in (104.8 cm) D. 1 1/2 in. Wt. 165 lbs. (74.8 kg) weight includes 31.119.1, 31.1192 and wooden mount without plexi. mount is probably half of this weight.
Classification:
Wood
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1931
Accession Number:
31.119.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 451
This carved pair (with 31.119.2) of teak doors imported into Iraq from Southeast Asia is probably from a royal or domestic residence. They epitomize the Beveled style—a symmetrical, abstract, vegetal form—and were probably originally painted and highlighted with gilding. The doors are said to have been found at Takrit, but were probably originally made in Samarra, the palace city of the Abbasid caliphs for a brief time in the mid‑ninth century.
According to Museum files, the findspot for these doors was the town of Takrit in north-central Iraq. Researchers, however, have deduced that local residents in modern times had brought them there for reuse from the ruins of Samarra, a site located on the east bank of the Tigris, about seventy-eight miles (125 km) north of Baghdad. It was at Samarra, in 836, that the Abbasid caliph al- Mu‘tasim (r. 833–42) established a new administrative and military center, the ruins of which cover over fifty square miles (80 square km). Excavations at Samarra have revealed a series of sprawling palace complexes, constructed of fired and unfired brick as well as pisé (mud or clay applied in courses); the walls were decorated with dadoes of carved or molded stucco panels, wall paintings, ceramic tiles, and glass mosaics. The Museum’s doors resemble the finds from Samarra so closely that they probably originated there as well.

Wood was not an abundant resource in this region, and at Samarra it seems to have been used sparingly in building interiors, primarily for doors, soffits, and jambs. The Museum’s doors are made of teak, a highly prized material shipped from Southeast Asia. Each leaf consists of a rectangular panel between two square panels, arranged vertically and set within a plain framework. The six inset panels embellished with symmetrical designs represent quintessential examples of the so-called beveled style of ornament that developed under the Abbasids, characterized by the slanted profile of its carving and the rhythmic undulation of its surfaces. Typical of beveled-style ornament, the designs on these doors vaguely suggest vegetation, with palmette-like forms and tendrillike spirals, while retaining their abstract nature. Here a raised ridge accentuates the outlines, and it is likely that brightly colored paint and gilding once highlighted the carved designs, as is the case on most of the wood fragments associated with the Samarra palaces.

Ellen Kenney (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
[ B. Cooke, Inc., Harrow on the Hill, England, until 1931; sold to MMA]
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 110, ill. fig. 62 (b/w).

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 18-19, ill. fig. 7 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 23, pp. 23, 45-46, ill. p. 45 (color).

Canby, Sheila R. "The Islamic Galleries at The Met." Arts of Asia, Arts of Asia, vol. 42 (September/October 2012). pp. 83-84, ill. fig. 6 (color).



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