17th century tray
Small table, signed by Situram
Aquamanile: Eagle 796-97
Ewer with stylised animal head terminals
Muhammad 'Ali: Enamelled portrait of Muhammad Shah
The giant Uj and the prophets Moses, Jesus and Muhammad
A page from the Gulshan-i ‘Ishq, c. 1710
Muhammad Qasim-i Tabrizi, Lady proffering a huqqa, c. 1640-50
25th March 2004 - 3rd October 2004
The most significant exhibition
of Islamic art to be held in London since the Festival of Islam
at the Hayward Gallery in 1976, this small but dazzling introduction
to the art and artefacts of the Islamic world promises to be one
of the cultural highlights of the year.
The theme of the exhibition is well expressed
by the famous hadith : 'Verily, God is beautiful and loves
all beauty', with exhibits drawn from the collections of The State
Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and The Khalili Collection, London.
Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands includes masterpieces
representing the finest decorative arts of Islam - calligraphy,
textiles, jewels, metalwork, ceramics and paintings, ranging in
date from the 9th to the 19th century and covering an area stretching
from Spain and the Arab world to Persia and the Indian subcontinent.
Islamic art has its roots in the ancient
artistic traditions of Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran, and brings together
a passion for luxury, countered with the harsh severity of abstraction.
The former, reflecting the fabulous wealth of Islamic rulers, is
an art which celebrates earthly majesty; the latter reflects the
divine majesty of Allah and the holy language of the Qur'an.
The exhibition will be designed
by Jasper Jacob Associates within the intimate galleries of the
Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House. Each room will convey important
aspects of Islamic artistic production, with key works of art set
The first gallery will celebrate the majesty
of God, highlighting the abstract art created in the service of
the divine. The abstract beauty of calligraphy used as a vehicle
for the Qur'an - literally the word of God - will be an important
theme, from Qur'anic manuscripts to woven prayer rugs, and lustre
tile panels from shrines bearing Qur'anic verses and rich arabesque
decoration. In the next room, the displays will show how figural
art was used in the service of earthly rulers, 'the shadow of God
on earth', and will include a multitude of bronze and ceramic birds
and animals, metalwork, stone relief carving and early Iranian silver.
The central feature of this gallery will be the celebrated 'Bobrinsky'
bucket from the Hermitage. Commissioned by a rich merchant of Herat
in 1163, it is covered with dense decoration in silver and copper.
The corridor of the Hermitage Rooms will
be hung with framed miniatures from Persian manuscripts of the 16th
and 17th centuries, some religious in theme while others celebrate
Islamic court life. The selection of miniatures will change
half way through the exhibition for conservation reasons. The first
group will be shown from 25 March to 8 June 2004 and the second
from 9 June to 22 August 2004. The first group will be
of works from The State Hermitage Museum, the second selected from
The Khalili Collection. The works form a visual link to the two
adjacent galleries, which present art created for worldly palaces.
Gallery IV will contain the famous jewels
from the Mughal treasury, sent as a diplomatic gift to the Princess
(later Empress) Elizabeth of Russia by Nadir Shah after he sacked
Delhi in 1739 - boxes, dishes and cups, encrusted with rubies, diamonds
and emeralds. The embassy bearing the jewels left Delhi in 1739
and, travelling by elephant, took two years to reach St Petersburg
where its arrival caused a great stir. A large wall showcase will
present richly embroidered robes while other fine silks will be
displayed on the walls.
The last gallery will celebrate the interaction
of East and West. A 10th-century rock crystal lamp, carried off
by Crusaders and mounted in gold and enamels in Italy in the 16th
century, will be shown together with sabers, daggers and other arms
richly embellished with jewels. These will be complemented by oil
paintings of Qajar rulers wearing such arms, and similar paintings
of the ladies of their courts, in imitation of Western paintings
and offering a curious blend of Oriental and European styles.
The broad range of exhibits, many
shown in London for the first time, make this stunning exhibition
a rare opportunity to view magnificent artefacts from a great cultural
and religious tradition in the unique setting of the Hermitage Rooms,
The exhibition has been generously
The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, Professor and Mrs
Nasser D Khalili, Alex and Ella Krasner, The Lisbet Rausing Charitable
Fund, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Mr Tarek Juffali,
NetJets, The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, The Deborah
Loeb Brice Foundation, Steven and Elena Heinz, The Suliman S. Olyan
Foundation, Rashed Abdulrahman Alrashed & Sons, The Founding
Members of the Walpole Circle, and others who wish to remain anonymous.
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