Study Day, Thursday 6 May 2004
Islamic Art and the West: Artistic Contact and Influence during the European Middle Ages and Renaissance

Organized to coincide with the exhibition of art from Islamic lands in the Hermitage Rooms, organised by the Courtauld and under the auspices of the Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum, seven scholars led a study day of papers and discussions on exchange and influence between Islamic and European art in the Mediterranean basin from medieval times to the Renaissance. 

Stefano Carboni from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Professor Deborah Howard from Cambridge University presented papers on Islamic and European art in Venice during the Renaissance in a session moderated by Doris Behrens-Abouseif of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Professor Robert Hillenbrand of the University of Edinburgh, Dr Jeremy Johns of Oxford, and Dr Anna Contadini of the School of Oriental and African Studies presented papers on European and Islamic art of the middle ages in a session moderated by Robert Irwin of the Times Literary Supplement.

The papers and discussions were especially lively as the audience was limited to specialists in the field who contributed their knowledge, experience, and opinions to the questions: what is Islamic and European art during the periods under question? Where does one locate the differences between the two? Is it justifiable any longer to teach the two separately, as two distinct fields of study? The latter question was particularly relevant as it has been mooted, briefly and only preliminarily, around the Courtauld for the past year and a half.

The Courtauld teaches the arts of the Mediterranean basin, with the exception of the arts of the Islamic lands, even when those lands were once occupied and Greek, Roman or Byzantine cultures beforehand; all cultures we do teach. The question has only been raised by the study day and needs much more discussion. 

Prof. James Cuno