Islamic World Gallery, British Museum

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The British Museum is one of those places which has so many corridors and back rooms that it's incredibly easy to miss great gems in their collections. In the Victoria & Albert Museum one of my favourite galleries is the Jameel Gallery, which houses Islamic art - it's one of the first galleries off the main atrium and it's pretty easy to find (even if it's just to wander through towards the cafe!). At the British Museum, however, the Islamic World gallery is a little more out of the way - tucked right at the back of the museum in Room 34 by the Montague Place exit, which I happened to come in through on this visit.

I find art and artefacts from the Middle East and the greater Islamic world incredibly inspiring due to the huge variety of styles and processes used. There's no denying that it's also hugely influenced many of the greats of British design; particularly William Morris, who took inspiration from the plant motifs and repeating natural patterns common in Islamic art. The British Museum holds a great variety of objects from the 600s onwards, exploring multiple aspects of the Islamic world from art to science. Currently on show in this gallery is 'The prince and the pir', a beautiful display of art on paper relating to mysticism in Islamic faith, the role and representation of dervishes and Sufism in Islamic art - I particularly loved the opaque watercolours finished with gold leaf.

FIND THE BRITISH MUSEUM AT: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Brass geomantic instrument used to divine the future (signed by craftsman Muhammad ibn Khutlukh al-Mawsuli), Egypt or Syria, AD 1241-2
Gold ewer and box with polychrome enamels, Jaipur, Mughal India, 20th Century
Safavid hand blown glass, Shiraz, Iran, 18th & 19th Centuries
Inscription on black basalt foundation stone, possibly Bahmanid dynasty, 1480
Unbound Qur'an with red and brown ink, West Africa, 1850-1950
Lacquered bookcover, Iran, late 18th Century
Earthenware lustre vase, Florence, 1890-1900, in the style of 17th-18th Century Iranian lustre ware
Gilded silver bowl, Khurasan, Iran, AD 800
Detail of the lid of a goldsmith's box (featuring Prophet Sulaiman surrounded by courtiers, angels, demons and animals), Qajar Iran, around 1840

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