Quantcast

The Metropolitan Museum of Art LogoEmail

Type the CAPTCHA word:

Betsy Williams

Betsy Williams is a graduate student at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and was the 2012 Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow in the Museum's Department of Islamic Art. Her dissertation is on precious-metal jewelry and notions of adornment in the Byzantine and early Islamic periods.

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Walid II

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Although al-Walid ibn Yazid, known as al-Walid II (r. 743–744), ruled for only a year, he is nonetheless one of the most colorful Umayyad caliphs. A grandson of Abd al-Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock, he is recorded in historical sources as a proverbial man about town. His behavior was considered so profligate that he was passed over in succession to grandfather's throne. Instead, his uncle Hisham became caliph and al-Walid retired to his desert qasr to pass his time in song and pleasure among a retinue of his favorite drinking companions.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Qasr al-Mshatta

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Look closely at the carved stonework from the facade of Qasr al-Mshatta, and you will spot a world of griffins, peacocks, lions, and pheasants hiding in the shade of delicately rendered grape leafs. The refinement of the representations here has captivated scholars and public alike for a century, ever since it arrived in Berlin as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Kaiser Wilhelm I shortly before World War I.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Sasanians

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012

Although the Sasanian (Sasanid) empire was centered in Mesopotamia, it played a major role in religious, political, and visual culture in the Byzantine and early Islamic eastern Mediterranean. The dynasty's founding can be traced to Ardashir I (r. 224–241), who established his authority following the defeat of the Parthians. The empire's early years were marked by the emergence of key institutions and cultural developments that would shape Sasanian culture for several centuries.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Loew's Wonder Theaters

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012

For a while now I've been obsessed with a group of buildings in the New York City area known as "Wonder Theaters." Constructed in the waning years of the roaring 1920s, they embody the experience of the silver screen in their fantastical ornamental mash-ups, many of which incorporate Byzantine and Islamic motifs.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Commerce

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012

One of the core themes of the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition and its catalogue is the close relationship between commercial activity and cultural exchange.1 The movement of goods and people along trade networks often superseded political impasses between dynasties and empires.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Approaching the Qur'an by Michael Sells

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Although the Qur'an shares much with the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Torah and the Old and New Testaments, it is often difficult for non-Muslim readers to understand the text's repeated formulations and unique approach to narrative. Michael Sells's book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations seeks to assist the unfamiliar by emphasizing the Qur'an's literary qualities.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Jewelry

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Few objects surviving from the Byzantine and early Islamic periods are as instantly relatable to modern sensibilities as examples of jewelry.1 They fascinate us not only for their beauty and preciousness, but also for the sense of immediacy they create as objects that were worn on medieval bodies.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Khirbat al-Mafjar

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Few surviving Umayyad palaces present as much evidence for the types of decoration popular among the period's elite as does Khirbat al-Mafjar, a desert qusur, or fortified palace complex.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Formation of Islamic Art by Oleg Grabar

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Most surveys of Islamic art proceed chronologically or geographically to synthesize several centuries of material covering a region stretching from Spain to Afghanistan. Oleg Grabar's book, The Formation of Islamic Art, instead focuses thematically on the earliest centuries of Islam.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Qusayr 'Amra

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Umayyad qusur, or desert "palaces," are known for their variety of architectural styles and decoration. One example, Qusayr 'Amra, is well known on both counts.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Third Caliph: Uthman ibn Affan

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Struggles of succession plagued the community of Muslims in the decades after the Prophet Muhammed's death in 632 A.D. The first four Muslim leaders, known as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs, did not succeed by birth, but rather were chosen by council or because of a personal relationship to the Prophet. The period was marked by strident disagreements about legitimacy of individual caliphs and about the proper practice of Islam.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Islamic Metalwork

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Silver and gold vessels and architectural elements count among the most dazzling artifacts produced in late antiquity. While Christian, Jewish, and Muslim texts consistently denounce the accumulation of precious metals as reflecting a repellent concern with the trappings of worldly wealth, these traditions also associate gold and silver with heavenly adornment.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Islamic Art and Architecture

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012

Introducing the arts of the Islamic world to a new audience is often a challenge for scholars, not only because the reader may be unfamiliar with the names or chronology, but also because the subject covers such a vast geographic area. Islamic Art and Architecture, 650–1250 by Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina provides a thorough overview to the arts and architecture of the Islamic world from North Africa to Central Asia beginning with the jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) period and ending with the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258. The book illustrates a wide array of objects both secular and sacred, luxurious and mundane.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

John of Damascus (Yuhanna al-Dimashqi)

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012

Few figures embody the transitional spirit of the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. as fully as does John of Damascus. His life gives a sense of the multicultural milieu of the early Islamic city and its diverse population of Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Greeks.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt, 300 BC–AD 800

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

While many studying the late antique period tend to focus on large-scale political shifts, change on the microlevel is often more difficult to track. Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt offers such a sense of everyday people's daily concerns by allowing us to peek at their correspondence.

Read More

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Sounds of Byzantium and Islam

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012

New York offers a feast of sounds for early music enthusiasts who would like to immerse themselves in the aural landscape of the medieval and contemporary Middle East. The Met has scheduled a number of musical events in conjunction with the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition.

Read More

Follow This Blog: Subscribe

About this Blog

This blog accompanied the special exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, on view March 14–July 8, 2012.