17 June, 2009

Freer Gallery, Washington DC

I spent today walking around the National Mall and visiting a few specifically planned places. One of those places was the Freer Gallery so I could admire the Islamic Art section. I am so thankful that this exhibit is there. I found it to be more impressive than the Arab-American Museum, but I think that's because it was focused more on the artwork itself and less on the immigration into America. That being said, my favorite display by far is the Abbasid display. Here are a few pictures:

I have always been impressed with the detail that goes into Islamic artwork. One of the aspects that's common to all Islamic art is the calligraphy. This is typically a Qur'anic verse. Here are some examples:

Notice around the edge of the bowl the calligraphy. I am not sure what it translates as in English, but that is one form of Arabic writing that is ornate.

This is a portion of some kind of stone slab (I think it's marble - probably should have taken better notes - will edit this when I know for sure). What's neat about this piece is how the calligraphy is woven into the rest of the styling.

This last piece is an iron jar. Notice the detail of not only design, but color as well. One thing I have found in my studies is that Islamic artwork is not just ornate, but colorful as well. Artists are/were especially fond of cobalt blue for reasons I have yet to figure out.


This last picture shows an illuminated manuscript. One of the most valued pieces of artwork Medieval Middle Easterners could have in their possession was an illuminated book. These were found mainly among the learned or higher class persons.

This particular folio is from the Haft manzar (Seven visages) by Hatifi (d. 1521) and is opened to the following poem:

"There is no friend in the world better than a book.
In the abode of grief that is this world, there is no
consoler [better than the book].
In a corner of loneliness, every moment,
it provides a hundred comforts, and there is never any vexation."*

*Information obtained from the card in front of the folio at the Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.

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