Published: October 23, 2001
: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection
GREENWICH, CONN. – The only New York-area showing of “; Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection,” a major exhibition highlighting the rich artistic heritage of the Ottoman Empire, is on view at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences October 27 through January 27.
This fall/winter exhibition is part of an important national tour that has been traveling the country since February 2000 and makes its Northeast debut at the Bruce. This tour, which has traveled to Portland, Ore. and San Francisco, Calif., prior to its arrival in Greenwich, marks the first time a showing of these objects has been put on public view in the United States. In subsequent months the exhibition travels to Wisconsin, North Carolina and Utah.
Drawn from one of the largest collections of its kind, the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, “” consists of over 200 objects ranging from armor, scientific instruments and holy objects to textiles, treasury objects and manuscripts. The exhibition embraces virtually every aspect of Ottoman art while examining a dynasty that spanned more than six centuries. With this exhibition, the Bruce Museum explores the culture of one of the most impressive states in the history of Europe and the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans emerged in the late Thirteenth Century as a minor Turcoman principality and their reign extended until 1922, making the Ottoman Empire the longest surviving dynastic state in Islamic history. The heartland of the Empire was in Anatolia (Turkey) and the Balkans. The Ottomans became a world power in 1453, and the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566) marked the golden age of the Ottoman Empire, both in terms of military achievements and artistic production. At its zenith, the Ottoman Empire extended from Hungary and the Ukraine in the north to include Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Arabia and most of North Africa. Throughout the history of the Empire, patronage of architecture and the arts flourished.
The works on view have been selected from the Nasser D. Kahalili Collection of Islamic Art, which has been assembled over the last three decades and now includes over 20,000 works of art celebrating the culture of the Islamic world. Kahalili, a renowned scholar, collector and benefactor of international standing, is the co-founder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between Muslims and Jews. He is one of the founders of the Iran Heritage Foundation, which promotes and preserves the cultural heritage of Iran.
Khalili, who was born in Iran in 1945, now resides in London and since 1970 has assembled a number of impressive art collections in a broad range of fields. In addition, Kahalili has made notable contributions to the scholarship of Islamic art, having founded, under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the first chair devoted to the decorative arts of Islam to be founded at any university.
The exhibition “: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection” demonstrates the originality and resilience of Ottoman artistic expression in religious, military, administrative and daily life, and the central role of imperial patronage within its culture. A wealth of objects as diverse as prayer books and chain mail shirts, brocaded velvets and imperial decrees brings to life the material culture of the Ottomans in its various aspects. Many were produced or used in religious contexts, while others reflect the sumptuous world of the court.
The exhibition features an array of domestic objects in silver, brass, ceramic and glass, which employ designs influenced by artistic trends from across the Empire and parts of Europe. Other objects include carpets, bookbindings and examples of decoupage (cut-out work), which reached the height of virtuosity during the rule of Suleyman the Magnificent.
Many examples of calligraphy, presented in the hands of some of the greatest calligraphers of the Empire, as well as the tools that were used in the painstaking processes, are on view and demonstrate the primary importance of this art of writing within the wider context of Ottoman art.
The written word is shown in the many aspects it assumed within the Empire – religious, administrative and cultural. Numerous copies of the Holy Kur’an, which for Muslims is the literal word of God as received by the Prophet Muhammad, are on display. The memorization of the Kur’an and the copying and embellishment of its text are among the highest expressions of piety. These Calligraphic images are considered some of the most beautiful works of Ottoman art. Also on view are calligraphic medallions, brass candlesticks and ornamented door fittings that were used in mosques, as well as splendidly decorated deeds and certificates.
Because geography and the exact sciences were necessary to Muslims for determining correct times and directions for prayers and the dates of festivals, this exhibition also features elaborate compasses, sundials and astrolabe quadrants; calendars, lush illustrations of shrines and towns; mathematical accounts and celestial charts; and maps and atlases.
The Ottomans are also known for their decorative arts, particularly ceramics and carpets. The exhibition contains flasks, ewers and dishes whose surfaces replicate those of Chinese wares. Jugs, incense burners, coffeepots, a ladle and a scent-dropper represent domestic rdf_Descriptions. An Ottoman rug, created in Cairo in the late Sixteenth or early Seventeenth Century, is also on view.
The exhibition is organized and circulated by Art Services International of Alexandria, Va., a non-profit educational institution. Underwriters for the exhibition at the Bruce Museum include Greta R. Pofcher, Jacki and H. Lee Browne, Carol and George Crapple, Susan E. Lynch, Virginia and Juan Meyer, Charles M. Royce, Deborah and Ned Stiles and an anonymous donor.
The 302-page catalogue, fully illustrated in color and written by Professor J, M. Rogers, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, accompanies the exhibition.
The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, 1 Museum Drive, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. For information, 203-869-0376.
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