Introduction to Islamic Art
The Museum's galleries for Islamic art will be temporarily closed over the next several years for enlargement, renovation, and restoration. Some sixty exemplary works from the Department of Islamic Art are being shown in a temporary installation on the south balcony overlooking the Museum's Great Hall. Information about the installation, as well as features highlighting Islamic art, is available online.
The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Islamic art, which ranges in date from the seventh to the nineteenth century, reflects the great diversity and range of Islamic culture and offers perhaps the most comprehensive permanent installation of Islamic art on view anywhere. Nearly 12,000 objects created in the cultural tradition of the world's youngest monotheistic religion (Islam, founded in A.D. 622, means "submission to God") have been assembled at the Metropolitan from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. While many of these objects were originally intended for decoration of a mosque or for use during worship, domestic and luxury objects in the collection reveal the mutual influence of artistic practice in the sacred and secular realms. In particular, the traditions of calligraphy, vegetal ornament (the arabesque), and geometric patterning are strongly expressed in most pieces on view.
To dispel a common misconception: Islam's supposed prohibition against figural art is confined to the religious sphere. As just one example, many representations of people are to be found in the department's outstanding assemblage of miniature paintings—strictly secular in nature—from the courts of Iran and Mughal India. Other strengths of the Metropolitan's collection include ceramics and textiles from all parts of the Islamic world; some of the finest Islamic carpets in existence from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and glass and metalwork from Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia.
Fifty highlights from the department are presented online, organized by object classification (such as calligraphy, glass, or woodwork) and, within classifications, chronologically.
Top left: Mihrab, 755 A.H./ca. A.D. 1354. Iranian. Mosaic of monochrome-glaze tiles on composite body set on plaster. Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.20). Bottom left: Bottle, late 13th century. Egyptian or Syrian. Free blown, tooled, enameled, and gilded glass. Rogers Fund, 1941 (41.150). Top right: The Feast of Sada: Leaf from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, ca. 1520–22. Attributed to Sultan Muhammad. Opaque colors, ink, silver, and gold on paper. Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.2).