Inspired by the East – how the Islamic world influenced western art @ The British Museum

notes taken at visit on Friday 15 November 2019

Interest in the area because it was birthplace of Christianity
Vehicle for early positive interaction is Ottoman Empire

Copies were made of Ottoman artefacts, some accurate copies some only inspired by

Two beautiful examples of ceramic, large basin from Egypt/ Syria and Persian bowl, the ceramic copies are modelled on inlaid metalworking of the 1300’s

‘European craftworkers found Arabic inscriptions appealing, also the distinctive pear shape of mosque lamps’, some examples of lamps and ‘Persian Blue’ Persian Safavid (1650-1720)
‘Rediscovered techniques of gilding and enamelling caused a revolution in glass decorating’ eg Beaker and Stoppered Jar (1914-1916)

Glazed and gilded ceramics eg Veneto (1629) and Italian plate ‘might have been made to respond to taste for Ottoman ceramics. The intricate flowers and leaves can be seen in a near-contemporary Ottoman glazed and gilded ceramic plate'(1600-1625) the two look similar

Tiles (1850)
‘Advances in industry allowed them to be mass produced. Developments in sanitation and healthcare meant they were valued as easily cleaned surfaces. This meant an interest in re-creating Middle Eastern and North African interiors, often imaginatively:
– smoking rooms
– steam baths
– Islamic style tiles from floor to ceiling
Ottoman designs, directly copied or influenced colour schemes eg RMS Titanic cooling room of their Turkish baths (1908 picture)’

More examples of beautiful tiles eg 1. relief moulded and glazed ceramic: France (1880) La Faiencerie de Longwy 2. printed and glazed ceramic UK (1890) Maw & Co.

Alhambra model
fortified palace of Granada 1350 built towards the end of Muslim rule in Southern Spain
model created possibly:
– to assist repairs of the palace
– for souvenirs
– to teach art and design

1600 – 1799 Candlesticks very large gilt copper from Turkey

Other areas of influence include music and literature, examples given are Aida, Aladdin and 1001 nights or Arabian Nights

‘Images of Muslims engaging with their faith
– at prayer
– on Haji pilgrimage
– studying in madrasa school
such depictions of religious certainty may also reflect a response to the anxieties of the time. European society and morality were in a state of flux under pressure from industrialisation and secularisation’
eg men on prayer rugs in the middle of the desert

some examples of small prayer rugs

this felt to me like a brief exploration of a vast subject and a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the origin of a lot of artistic if sometimes mundane items (like rugs, ceramics and literature) in our lives, which can only deepen our appreciation and enrich our experience of them