20 February 2013, 17:56

Muslim art: Allah's 99 names

Muslim art: Allah's 99 names

Even before its opening day, this exhibition was put on the list of the season’s main events. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow offers an exhibition of classical Muslim art called Allah’s 99 names, which is to last from the 20th of February till the 26th of May.

The visitors will be able to enjoy masterpieces from the collection of the Marjani Foundation in Support and for the Development of Scientific and Cultural Programmes.

An 11th century cat-shaped bronze cassolette from Iran, 10th century glazed ceramic bowls from Iraq, a 14th century Chinese oriental robe embroidered with gold and with a fur welt, and a magnificent copy of the Koran with an interesting history are some of the exhibits. Iranian painters and calligraphers turned to that Koran more than once. In the early 18th century it was written in Arabic, 50 years later it was provided with a Farsi translation and after several more decades passed its margin was covered with golden ornaments and it was enclosed in a valuable binding. These pieces delight even such a sophisticated connoisseur as director of the Pushkin Museum Irina Antonova.

“I must say that I’m deeply impressed because these exhibits open the world of fine feelings and esthetic inherent worth. All the ornaments, miniatures, manuscripts and the writing itself, the shapes of vessels are perfectly made. All of them are monuments of real art.”

Orientalist Anton Pritula believes that the Marjani Foundation’s collection of Muslim art is the best private collection of this kind in Russia.

“Muslim art did not emerge from nothing. In every region it mixed with ancient cultural traditions that were reviewed and supplemented with traditions of a new spiritual civilisation. It is also significant that the exhibition is arranged in the chronological order and not according to the subject approach, as it is usually done in the west. We can watch changes in the character of art through the centuries under the influence of various historical events and other factors affecting its development.”

Wishes of prosperity to the owner are engraved on a 12th century brass ink-pot. An aphorism ‘greediness is a sign of poverty’ runs along the brim of a 10th century glazed clay bowl. It is also easy to read the words in the embroidered ornaments. Curator of the exhibition Galina Lasikova says that inscriptions on pieces of art are extremely important to Muslim people.

“Every piece of art, such as bowls, candle-holders, carpets or fabrics that were objects of everyday use, was meant to remind its users of lines from the Koran and words by spiritual leaders.”

The highlight of the exhibition is a 16th century Persian prayer carpet. Allah’s 99 names are embroidered in it with gold threads. These names are mentioned in Muslim prayers. This carpet gave the name to the exhibition, President of the Marjani Foundation Rustam Suleimanov says.

“The original idea was to show 100 exhibits as 100 masterpieces. While we were preparing for the exhibition we decided against one exhibit, so we realized that it was Allah’s will. We immediately remembered about Allah’s 99 wonderful names and found the name for our exhibition.”

A gorgeous catalogue has been printed for the exhibition. In addition, experts will be reading lectures in Muslim art all three months while the exhibition is open.

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