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: Tuesday, November 24, 2015
"O your hair," he said,
"it's like rainclouds
moving between branches of lightning.
It parts five ways
between gold ornaments
braided with a length of flowers
and the fragrant screwpine . . ."
So wrote the Tamil poet Kapilar, nearly two thousand years ago, of the beauty of a woman's braid adorned with jewels and sweet flowers. In the Department of Islamic Art, there is one such gold ornament, a jadanagam from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century South India on view in gallery 463, that never fails to bring me to a thrilled standstill as it shimmers under the light. Intended to adorn a woman's plait, or braid, the jadanagam features a large disc at the top that the wearer would secure to the back of her head with black cord, and a crimson silk tassel at its base to mark the end of the braid. The name alone suggests a graceful sinuousness: in Tamil, jadai refers to the braid and nagam means "snake." Combined with garlands of fragrant jasmine, the jadanagam—as Kapilar's poem suggests—would have made for a heady, mesmerizing effect.
Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015
As a recent graduate intern in the Department of Asian Art, I had the chance to observe the installation of the exhibition The Royal Hunt: Courtly Pursuits in Indian Art, on view through December 8, 2015. This was a rare opportunity for me to not only interact with a diverse set of experts across the Museum, all of whom worked collaboratively towards putting the exhibition together, but especially to examine up-close the objects on display.
Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2015
The collection of the Department of Islamic Art at the Met has been a prime research source for study during my time at the Institute of Fine Arts. This fall, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work in the department as an intern, and to reconsider some of the artwork that I viewed only briefly during previous coursework. Among such objects, an Umayyad wool tapestry fragment particularly made me recollect my thoughts, which then led to a new consideration of the object (fig. 1).
Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2015
While growing up in Bangladesh, I was hardly aware of Bangladeshi Islamic art. For most Bangladeshis, Islamic art merely concerned the Taj Mahal, Persian carpets, or Arabic calligraphy. The art made in our country was grouped under the labels of folk art or modern and contemporary art. So when I decided to write about Bangladeshi Islamic art for RumiNations, I was unsure how to approach it. My initial research on the subject did not help either, but instead left me with several questions: Is there a Bangladeshi Islamic art, and if so, what is it? Does it have a distinct visual vocabulary?
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Though the vast majority of the Met's Islamic collection comprises historical artifacts, we have recently started collecting contemporary art from the regions represented in our galleries. Deciding what exactly is included in the field of contemporary Islamic art is an issue that has been heatedly debated in past years, including most recently at a conference, Contemporary Islamic Art, Design, and Architecture 2015, that I attended in Singapore just a few weeks ago. Scholars have differing opinions of how to define or label works from this category, and our department takes its own particular approach. For us, the collecting mandate is that modern and contemporary works must relate to the historical collection.
Posted: Monday, October 26, 2015
The planning phase of my residency at the Met has given me the opportunity to explore the works on view in greater depth, with a focus on both study and documentation. Since January, I have selected one gallery, curatorial department, or exhibition per visit, with the goal of completing drawings of the objects that interest me. Later, while at work in my studio, I then choose the drawings that I would like to paint. I paint each object on an individual panel, which I then hang, salon-style, on the wall. I am attempting to create My Metropolitan—a monumental work that will be determined ultimately by the length of this residency, to be completed by the end of my tenure here at the Museum.
Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Look at any major early Islamic or late Antique monument, or read any description of those that are no longer standing, and you will likely encounter the medium of glass. Translucent, colorful, and ever so fragile, people in the Near Eastern world prized this substance during ancient and medieval times, where it was used in a variety of ways to add dazzle to the fanciest buildings of the day. On view through January 3, 2016, the exhibition Pattern, Color, Light: Architectural Ornament from the Near East (500–1000) explores the importance of the oft-forgotten glass architectural ornaments of early Islamic buildings.
Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015
As an artist in residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was recently asked what the Met means to me and about my relationship to the Museum. My professional relationship with the Met began in 1978, during my junior year at the School of Visual Arts. I say "professional" because that was when I, a young art student, first used the Museum as a resource for images to create new work.
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
One of the most striking aspects of the silk and metal-thread embroideries on view through November 1, 2015, in Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World is how labor-intensive they are. One might wonder who devoted so much time and eyestrain to creating these pieces, and at whose behest? Although they form a minority within the body of surviving liturgical embroideries, pieces inscribed with the names of the donor or the embroiderer help scholars to answer these questions.