Published: March 5, 2002
Glory and Prosperity:
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – Intricately engraved vessels for everyday use, helmets and swords, and instruments for locating the direction of Mecca are among the objects featured in “Glory and Prosperity: ,” which runs through July 21 at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The exhibition, drawn mainly from the permanent collection of the Harvard University Art Museums, showcases 74 objects dating from the Sixth to the Nineteenth Century and originating in an area extending from Egypt to India.
“Glory and Prosperity” presents an art form that was important in the Islamic world from the very beginnings of Islam in the Seventh Century to the early Twentieth Century. The title of the exhibition comes from inscriptions frequently found on medieval Islamic metalwork, naming the benefits the owners of the vessels presumably hoped would accrue to them through possession and use.
Although relatively few objects were made from precious metals because of religious disapproval, Islamic metalworkers created sophisticated works out of copper alloys, with sculptural shapes and intricate decoration, including gold and silver inlay. The relatively large number of craftsmen’s signatures to be found in this medium, as compared with ceramics or textiles, reflects the high status accorded to metalwork.
“Glory and Prosperity” is arranged both chronologically and regionally, with separate cases for objects related to science and magic and for arms and armor. Three metalworking traditions are represented: one produced vessels and other objects related to daily life and decoration; a second was devoted to scientific and magical instruments, which required knowledge of the subject as well as metalworking skills; and a third created arms and armor, which were made of steel rather than copper alloys or precious metals.
The Fogg Art Museum and the Busch-Reisinger Museum are located at 32 Quincy Street in Cambridge. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum is located next door at 485 Broadway. Each Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. More information is available at artmuseums.harvard.edu or phone 617-495-9400.
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