Opening of the exhibition
East and West. Art of the Islamic world in the Hermitage-Vyborg
The exhibition East and West. Art of the Islamic world opened
in the Hermitage-Vyborg Exhibition Center on 28 February 2011.
About two hundred artefacts of Islamic culture of the
VII-XIX centuries are exhibited: works of applied art and
painting, jewellery and weapons, fragments of architectural decor,
textile, ceramics, bronzes, glass and works made of bone.
The first section of the exhibition demonstrates artefacts from the birth
of Islam in the VII century to Mongol invasions of the XIII century. This
is the period when the Islamic culture influenced by traditions of Syria,
Egypt, the Sassanian Iran being part of the Caliphate was formed. There
are art metal works that date back to the Arab Caliphate epoch, in particular
unique bronze shaped receptacles. Aquarius in the shape of an eagle (796-797,
Iraq) is interesting not only as a wonderful work of art but also as the
earliest Islamic bronze shaped receptacle dated by the inscription. One
of the new techniques that was developed in the Islamic world during this
period and remained unknown in Europe until the late XV century was encrustation
with copper and silver on the bronze or brass surface. This technique
was used for production of fine tableware: jugs, trays, cups of the XII-XIII
century remarkable for their polychromy, bright and sophisticated decoration.
Calligraphy was of great importance in the Islamic world. The Arab inscriptions
can be found on housewares and sacred relics. Marble tombs of the IX century
and wooden decorative plates from Egypt of the XI-XX centuries are decorated
with plain inscriptions in the Kufic script. The words of blessing on the plate of the XI century from Maverannahr (Central Asia) are written
with long narrow letters of the Nasch script. Unique from the viewpoint
of the art of inscriptions is the bronze kalamdan (pen case) made by the
Iranian craftsman Omar Ibn Al-Fadl Ibn Joseph Al-Baya in 1148; this is the first work to have a Persian poem written on it besides the traditional
The Islamic art of the XIII-XVI centuries demonstrates samples of decorative
and applied art and architectural decor that were widely spread on the
territory of the Islamic world that had grown significantly. The Islamic
tiles and ceramics of the XIII-XV centuries decorated with cobalt painting
on the white glaze replicate the patterns of Chinese porcelain. Production
of polychromic glass cups and bottles reaches its peak in Syria and Egypt.
Eight-point ceramic tiles painted with luster and cobalt convey the style
of the architectural decor of madrasahs and palaces of the XIV century.
The authentic capitals and consoles that used to decorate the famous palace
of Alambra, the last Muslim citadel in Europe which fell in 1492, deserve
The evidence of the growing European influence in the XVI-XIX centuries
is the art of Islamic Iran and Turkey. For example, the companion portraits
Woman with a Diadem and Woman with Roses (Iran, mid-XIX century) are painted
with regard to the European high class - they are painted within the genre
of court portrait in oils. The European tradition is also seen in the
way light and shade are painted and careful attention to details.
The last section of the exhibition is devoted to political and trade
contacts of the Islamic world and Russia and includes the diplomatic gifts
given to Russian monarchs by the Muslim country leaders and trophies of war captured during the wars with Turkey and Persia. It is the first time
jewellries - rings, earrings and necklaces - from the Khiva khan’s treasury
captured by Adjutant General K. P. Kaufmann in 1873 have been exhibited.
The exhibition’s coordinator is Larissa Yurjevna Kulakova, research worker
of the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage Museum. The Slavia
Publishing House prepared a scientific catalogue East and West.
Art of the Islamic World.
At the opening of the exhibition
Larissa Kulakova, the exhibition’s curator
By a showcase with artistic arms
In the exhibition rooms
At the exhibition
Catalogue of the exhibition