While visiting the Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it became clear to me just how much meaning each piece of art held. It was clear from the very beginning that Islamic art was full of tiny details but asI looked around at all the different pieces in the gallery, I realized just how important these miniscule details actually were when it came to understanding the meaning behind each work of art. Being able to see the art up close made it much more interesting to learn about it and it also allowed me to think back to class and how it related to
what we were learning.
There were many different kinds of pieces such as rugs, bowls, and work done with tiles and stones which would be found in a mosque.
The first piece of art that caught my attention was the Mihrab (Iran, 1354- 1355 A.D.) that was made out of mostly blue tiles. We learned in class that the Mihrab was a niche in the wall of the mosque which was in the direction of the Kabba in Mecca; this is what the people would face when praying in the mosque.
This was one of my favorite pieces in the gallery because of the details that made
up the whole piece in general. Even though it was made out of tiles, there are so many different designs as well as the calligraphy that placed throughout the piece itself. This was a perfect example of how intricate Islamic art is and how each piece of art has some sort of meaning to it.
Also, coming from an Indian background made it easy to relate to what I was seeing because even though the two cultures are very different, the intricacy of the art work is very similar.
A very large part of the Islamic galleries consisted of rugs and carpets from Turkey and Iran that were made in the 16th and 17th century. The Silk “Kashan” Carpet from Iran, made in the 16th century, was said to be made by hand tied knots of silk thread. I found this piece to be very unique because of the way it was made and the way it incorporated designs that were seen in other Islamic pieces. When looking at all of the rugs and carpets, whether they were small or large enough to cover the length of a whole wall, there were many patterns and designs that were seen in multiple pieces. I found it interesting that a handmade piece such as this one could contain so many different designs and details considering many items today are made by machines and they still don’t have as much detail as these pieces do. My favorite part of this carpet was the design in the middle because it was the most intricate and made the whole carpet come together.
The colors seemed to be the same for all of the carpets (orange, tan, red, green, and blue) as well as for most of the Islamic pieces in the gallery. The use of calligraphy is also very apparent in many Islamic pieces that were in the gallery, showing how important prayer and their culture are to them in all aspects of their life, including their art. The Inscribed Bowl from Iran, made in 1535-1536 A.D., is fully covered in prayers as well as calligraphy that describes other important details about the bowl. Below the rim of the bowl, there is a Shi’i prayer as well as verses talking about abundance and happiness inscribed throughout the rest of the bowi.
The name of the owner as well as the author and date it was manufactured are also inscribed along the outside of the bowl. What I found interesting about this piece, as well as most Islamic art in general, was how much thought the makers put into their work. While thinking about creativity, the artists seem to also incorporate as much of their religion as they can into their pieces. I personally feel as though they do this as a good deed and that they feel like it will help bring them closer to god as well as help them live a better life. While there were many unique and interesting pieces in the various galleries, my favorite part of my whole trip to the museum was seeing the Damascus Room (Syria, 1707 A.D.).
When I walked into the opening that allowed me to look at the room, I instantly felt calm. There was something about the Damascus room that just changed the whole atmosphere around me; it felt like a room perfectly fit for someone of high ranking. It is said that the poetry inscribed on the walls indicated that the patron was Muslim and possibly a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The different aspects of the room made it give offa completely different vibe; similar to that of a temple/mosque. The poetry on the walls as well as the tile work throughout the room added a religious feel to the room. I felt that the simplicity of the room is what made it so much more interesting to look at because it made me think about the hidden meaning inside each part of the room.
Overall, I felt as though looking through the Islamic galleries made it easier for me to understand the importance of the Islamic culture and how the people felt about their religion. I enjoyed seeing the details and meaning behind each piece of art while also comparing and contrasting each piece. The colors and designs seemed to repeat themselves throughout many different pieces as well as the use of calligraphy. Religious verses are incorporated in Islamic work wherever it is possible, showing the importance of Islamic religious texts.