Art And Culture

US Museum Presents Groundbreaking Islamic Art Exhibition

US Museum Presents Groundbreaking Islamic Art ExhibitionUS Museum Presents Groundbreaking Islamic Art Exhibition

The Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires flourished during a time of rapid change and artistic innovation in the Islamic world, as people, ideas, and technologies spread across Europe and Asia. At the heart of the empires’ courts were networks of individuals—writers, poets, artists, craftsmen—who produced extraordinary works of art for the ruling elite.

From November 8 through January 31, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, presents Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts, the first major exhibition to focus on these influential and often charismatic individuals.

The free exhibition features more than 120 works including paintings, calligraphy, textiles, ceramics, and jeweled luxury objects. Dating from the 16th to the 18th century, these exquisite works of art were created in historic India, Iran, and Turkey, a vast geographic area that extends from the Bay of Bengal to the Mediterranean Sea, reports

“Pearls on a String seeks to broaden public engagement with the cultural histories of Muslim societies by demonstrating how human imagination and collaboration can ignite extraordinary artistic creativity,” said Amy Landau, associate curator of Islamic and South Asian art and curator of the exhibition.

  Three Vignettes

Organized in a series of vignettes, it spotlights a 16th-century writer, a 17th-century artist, and an 18th-century patron. Through poignant quotes, startling juxtapositions of artwork, and subtle references to the protagonists’ architectural surroundings, the exhibition offers a rare glimpse into their worlds. The individuals also inform the exhibition’s poetic title: viewed independently, each is a gleaming “pearl,” yet collectively they constitute an even more vibrant “string of pearls.”

Writer Abu’l Fazl (1551–1602): A prolific writer, visionary historian and intimate at the court of the third Mughal emperor Akbar in India, he was the most powerful voice in defining Akbar’s policies of political inclusion in the context of a demographically diverse empire

Painter Muhammad Zaman (1650–1700): At the court of Safavid ruler Shah Sulayman, this imperial artist radically changed the course of Persian painting by introducing ‘Farangi-Sazi’, a European style, into the Persian tradition.

Patron Sultan Mahmud I (1696–1754): An Ottoman ruler and active patron of the arts and architecture, this once-forgotten sultan commissioned fanciful jeweled objects as well as lavish libraries and mosques that define Istanbul’s skyline to this day.

“The Walters’ initiative to organize its first international loan exhibition dedicated to Islamic art springs from the quality of the museum’s collection, its intellectual resources and its dedication to providing free access,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, the Andrea B. and John H. Laporte director of the Walters Art Museum.