Palace & Mosque: Islamic Art from the V&A

Past Exhibition

This exhibition was made possible by the generous donation funding the redevelopment of the V&A's Islamic Middle East Gallery. It was seen by almost 290,000 people in venues around the world including Washington, Fort Worth, Tokyo, and Sheffield. Most of the objects from Palace and Mosque were displayed in the new Jameel Gallery, which opened to the public on 20 July 2006.

Some of the more than 100 works of Islamic art included in the Palace and Mosque exhibition are shown below. Click on the thumbnails for larger images and more information.                                                  

Ottoman marquetry and tile table Mid 16th century Museum no. C.19-1987

Ottoman marquetry and tile table Mid 16th century Museum no. C.19-1987

‘Khusraw and the Lion’ painting, 1632 (L.1613–1964) [detail]

‘Khusraw and the Lion’ painting, 1632 (L.1613–1964) [detail]

Ivory casket from Toledo Early eleventh century Museum number (10-1866)

Ivory casket from Toledo Early eleventh century Museum number (10-1866)

Tray Between 1341 and 1363 Museum number (420-1854)

Tray Between 1341 and 1363 Museum number (420-1854)

The mission of the Prophet Muhammad, who died in AD 632, gave rise to Islam as a religion. It also led to the establishment of an Islamic state, which expanded rapidly in the years after the Prophet's death. By the mid-eighth century, the lands under Islamic rule stretched as far as the Atlantic Ocean in the west. In the east, they had reached the banks of the River Indus, in what is now Pakistan. This great empire, with its capitals in Syria and Iraq, was the birthplace of Islamic art.

By the tenth century, the political unity of the first Islamic empire had dissolved, but the principles that lay behind it endured. They formed the basis of the Islamic states that governed roughly the same territory until the early twentieth century, when secular regimes began to be established. As a result, Islamic art was able to flourish for another thousand years.

The formation of Islamic art owed a great deal to Islam as a religion, but it also reflected a sophisticated secular culture. 'Islamic art' is therefore a broad cultural term rather than one based on an exclusively religious definition. It is the art of both palace and mosque.

The exhibition was divided into several themes. The widespread use of inscriptions in the Arabic script was explored in The Written Word. By contrast, ornaments that includes human and animal figures was found only in the art made for Courts and Courtiers. Works made for places of worship, both Muslim and Christian, were examined in Mosque, Shrine and Church. The impact of the region's rulers on Islamic art was considered in Ottoman Patronage. Finally, the intense interaction between the Middle East, China and Europe was the subject of Artistic Exchange.

Palace and Mosque served as testimony to the ability of the V&A's collections to communicate the richness and depth of the Islamic cultures of the past.

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