Metropolitan Museum of Art opens Byzantium and Islam. Age of Transition

. March 14, 2012 . 0 Comments

The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents Byzantium and Islam. Age of Transition, an exhibition on view March 14-July 8, 2012 in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall.


Pyxis with Vine Scrolls and Birds (cat. no. 120B), Syria (?), 7th–8th century. Ivory and red, blue and black paint; beechwood lid, painted and gilded, with rock crystal knob and gilt copper fittings, added later; H. 14 cm (5 1/2 in.); Diam. 8.5 cm (3 3/8 in.). Victoria and Albert Museum, London (136 – 1866)

At the start of the seventh century, the eastern Mediterranean—from Syria through Egypt and across North Africa—was central to the spiritual and political heart of the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Yet, by the end of the same century, the region had become a vital part of the emerging Islamic world, as it expanded westward from Mecca and Medina. Through some 300 exceptional works of art, the groundbreaking presentation will reveal the artistic and cultural adaptations and innovations that resulted during the initial centuries of contact between these two worlds. The works are drawn primarily from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Benaki Museum, Athens, and the collections under the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. Many of these as well as stellar loans from other institutions in North America, Europe, and the Middle East have never been shown before in the United States.

Major support for the exhibition and catalogue has been provided by Mary and Michael Jaharis, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and The Hagop Kevorkian Fund.

Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum commented: “Byzantium and Islam will contribute immeasurably to the intellectual legacy that was established by the Met’s previous three widely acclaimed exhibitions on the Byzantine Empire. By bringing to general attention a complex historical period that is neither well-known nor well-understood, this exhibition will provide an important opportunity for our audiences. These centuries in the development of Byzantine Orthodoxy, Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam had a profound impact on traditions that exist today. As this exhibition will show, there was a great deal of interaction among Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities, whether as neighbors or as partners in trade. We are grateful to our colleagues in museums worldwide for their collaboration on this important project, and are deeply honored by the loan of many significant works from museums and institutions that seldom lend.”

Exhibition organizer Helen C. Evans, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art, continued: “Exceptional art was produced in the seventh century in the eastern Mediterranean when it was part of the Byzantine state; art of the same high quality continued to be made there in subsequent centuries under Islamic rule. Byzantium and Islam will begin with the arts of the region under Byzantine rule, then demonstrate their influence on the traditions that evolve under the new political and religious dominance of Islam, including new Muslim traditions that emerged from the process. The dialogue between established Byzantine and evolving Islamic styles and culture, as a central theme of the exhibition, will be demonstrated through works of art connected with authority, religion, and trade.”

The exhibition brings together works of art from museums in more than a dozen countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, the Republic of Georgia, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City among others. From the United States, lenders include: Brooklyn Museum, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery.

A special feature about the exhibition will appear on the website of the Metropolitan Museum (www.metmuseum.org).

Category: Art Culture