08 September 2018 till 03 March 2019

Splendour and Bliss

Arts of the Islamic World

Mosque lamp with Verse of Light from Koran and titles of person commissioning lamp, Syria or Egypt, 1322-1328, glass with enamel painting and gilding, height 32.1 cm, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.  Photo: Mounir Raji - Visionary Agency

From flowing calligraphy to luxuriant floral designs, from geometric star patterns to endless arabesques and lifelike birds and fish; 300 objects will showcase the astounding ornamental qualities of Islamic art in the period 900-1900.

Splendour and Bliss – Arts of the Islamic World will bring together many highlights of Islamic art. The exhibition, full of splendour and majesty, will focus on the ornamental character of Islamic art and on stories of culture, tradition and craft. In addition, writers, cooks and musicians will pay tribute to the sensuous nature of the objects in the exhibition in literary texts, recipes and pieces of music inspired by them. The results can be seen and heard in the exhibition and will play a role in a range of associated activities.



The Islamic world as a centre
As Islam spread from the early seventh century onwards, an Islamic empire developed which, at its height, extended from Spain to China. Science, technology and art flourished at the various courts in the empire, where progress was often far ahead of that in other parts of the world.

Islamic culture has produced some magnificent art objects throughout its history, some of which found their way to the Far East and Europe. Merchants, craftsmen, pilgrims, diplomats, students and scientists travelled between the different cities, exchanging knowledge, technology, language, customs and art forms. Objects moved from one region to another along trade routes and as the spoils of war, leading to cross-fertilisation of forms and decoration.

Ode to craftsmanship
Much of the art from the Islamic world features highly detailed ornamentation. The rich decorations have a religious character, reminding the faithful of all the wonderful things that await them in the afterlife.

Splendour and Bliss will unravel this unique, positive symbolism, and it will also consider how the objects were used and made. The exhibition will thus be an ode to craftsmanship. Ancient techniques like glass blowing, wood carving, calligraphy and rug making reveal stories of culture, tradition and patronage, and the role of Islamic culture in the world.