EXHIBITION EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER, 12th
The second stop in the lead-up to the major autumn exhibition devoted to art
from the Far East and Central Asia up to the Mediterranean shores is a small exhibit focused on exquisite metal
Islamic art objects. Titled Sovereign Metals. Festivities, the Hunt and
the Firmament in Medieval Islam, it is also the debut collaboration
between the Museo d’Arte Orientale and The Aron Collection.
The exhibition, which is
replacing Lustre and Luxury from Islamic Spain in MAO’s Islamic Gallery,
features a carefully chosen selection covering the main types of Islamic
metal art objects
(incense burners, pen holders, candlesticks, trays, basins, bowls, perfume
bottles) that, along with miniature painting, represent some of the
highest expressions of Muslim artistic creativity.
Creativity that spread from Persia out into
the world like a language, reaching India and China in the East and the slopes
of Mount Atlas in the West. The object of admiration and imitation, it also
arrived in Europe, showing that the borders of aesthetic perception are not
tied to those of politics and religion.
What were the artisans’ preferred themes for these invaluable metal objects?First and foremost, the hunt, and in particular the iconography of the king on
horseback flanked by animals (often a falcon, a leopard or a camel) and a
female servant, who could be an artist, a scientist or a musician.
Another major theme was astronomy, which, together with astrology, played a
central role in the life of sovereigns and influenced their political, military
and even romantic decisions. Popular motifs included planets, constellations
and zodiac signs, as well as imagery linked to predicting the future.
Lastly, festive and banquet scenes, which were connected to the
literary genre Bazm-o-Razm, meaning ‘feast and fight, encapsulating the cyclical
opposition of the glories of peace to the passion of combat.
Astrology, with its scenes of court life and regal
pomp, was especially able to evade Islamic iconoclasm in the Middle Ages,
becoming the preferred theme for objects produced for the flourishing medieval
Islamic middle class that started filling the cities of the Caliphate in the
This extraordinary and
metaphysical repertoire is joined by the rigour of the calligraphic arts, for the most part used for objects associated
with producing light, like candlesticks and lamps, which were fundamental not
only for secular everyday life but also for the more opulent religious and
of the most refined objects on view in the exhibition is a silver encrusted
pen holder (Mosul, Iraq, late
13th century), decorated with an image of the Sun surrounded by the planets, a
typical motif for objects made for rulers and other members of the elite as
well as an emblem of astrological iconography in medieval Islam. Another is a large
brass basin with silver damascene and engraving (Fars, southern Iran, 14th
century), the entire surface of which is decorated with highly symbolic imagery
depicting scenes of hunting with a leopard, a falcon and a bow, expressive of a
royal prerogative and the sovereign’s exceptional qualities as a combatant.
As with previous
exhibitions at MAO, Sovereign Metals opens up dialogue between old
and contemporary works,
offering itself as a tool for study and in-depth analysis of cultures and
materials. This time, MAO is delighted to present, within the exhibit, the work
Monochrome Bleu (1959) by Yves Klein
Yves Klein’s artistic
experimentation with the transformation of colour into art, exalting the
luminosity and intensity of ultramarine blue, was in a certain way the
completion of a artistic pursuit with ancient roots. Ultramarine blue was
unquestionably the most important natural pigment used in ancient Egyptian and
Assyrian painting. The hue was also central to the work of Islamic miniature
painters devoted to illuminating manuscripts. Ultramarine blue, also known as
Persian blue, dominated these fine manuscripts and was often expertly paired
with gold leaf.
this in mind, Monochrome Bleu provides an opportunity to
appreciate the development of technical, artisan and artistic knowledge and
expertise, in continuous expressive tension, which became a philosophical model
in Klein’s interpretation, and to fully enjoy the breathtaking depth of its
The exhibition Sovereign
Metals offers MAO visitors a
chance to view numerous objects that are normally kept in the museum’s storage,
paired with works from the Aron Collection and other important private
Admission to the
exhibition is included in the ticket for the permanent collection.