A visit was made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to find suitable art work from the past relating to Islamic art. Three main object were identified as the most suitable artworks to be included in this paper for analyzing the nature of Islamic art. The three objects selected for this paper include incense burner, a pair of carved doors and a cauldron.
The term Islamic Art commonly refers to the visual pieces of art that has been produced by the crafty Muslim artists living in the areas, in a dense Muslim population. The explicit definition of this art is complex and bit difficult. It encompasses various people and a variety of land involved over the period of 1400 years. It is not just merely the art specific to Islam or any specific time span, place or any peculiar medium of expression like painting. This is a huge field enriched with a variety of Muslim artists from different times, place and with different sources of expression. Arab art has taken a very prestigious position under the label of Islamic art even though many of the artist have happened to be non-Muslim. The comprehensive term "Islamic" depicts not only a religion but widely applies to form of crafts that have been created in the context of Islam or within the culture of Islam. A significant discrepancy exists in the ideology of Islamic art in Muslims, and this phenomenon is not accepted by all Muslims.
The Shi‘a Imam with name Ja’far Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ali was born on the 17th of Rabi’ul Awwal 86 A.H who made incense burner placed in Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Seljuq sultanate was the period during which this piece of art was made. The period had very lavish courts and were interested in the figural art. There is a perception that such form of art is strongly forbidden in Islam that is inaccurate. This piece of art was made during year 1181–82 and was made in Iran, Taybad. Incense burners were commonly used during Seljuq period. This lion or cat shaped example is extraordinary for its colossal scale, the enhancement of its engraved enrichment, and the extensive information provided by Arabic calligraphic inscribed on the body. The names of the artist and the patron, and the manufacturing date. The head of this piece of art is removable so that incense and coal could be inserted inside. The neck and body are pierced so that the scented smoke could escape. The burner certainly would have been placed at home in a lavish setting. It is Metallic, Lion/Cat shape (Overall. Height 33 1/2 inch. Length 32 1/2 inch. Width 9 inch. From heel of back foot to toe of front foot: 22 inch. From toe of front foot to tip of nose: 4 inch. From heel of back foot to tip of tail. 7 inch). Various inscriptions related to artists and Islamic era are marked on it.
The motives, aesthetics and intended functions of incense burner include scented air, heating along with the artistic work. It is made of Bronze that is a suitable material for making such a thing that represents piece of art as well as serves as a scenting source in lavish rooms. It is casted, engraved, chased, and pierced. It is placed at the center to capture more attention alongside enabling people to view it from all sides and to describe the effect of its scent to be disseminated in all directions. Etc. It seems like a combination of big cat, metallic body of the art depicts the efforts put in by the artist etc. It has great difference in terms of looks and functionality. At first glance, it does not seem anything like a source of scent rather it looked like a sculpture of a majestic cat. It is a multipurpose piece of art i.e. a sculpture, drawing, Calligraphic work, incense burner, etc. It is a wonderful example in the shape of a catlike creature. It is the largest of its kind. It is inscribed through which the maker’s identity and its manufacturing date were revealed. It was constructed in two phases. First phase may have been making the body or the head and the second one about the other because the head can be removed from the body to fill up the burner with coal and incense. The pair of carved doors was made during the year 1466 that are also on display at Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has an origin of Iran with the Islamic culture as the background. It is made of Wood (teak). This piece artwork is on display in Gallery 455 of Metropolitan Museum.
The pair of carved doors with panels bears the date of 1466 on it’s one of the rectangular panels at its bottom, and the name of its maker on its vertical bar. During conservation treatment and examination, three handwritten engravings were revealed on the reverse of the doors, which were readable only with an Infrared Reflectography (IRR). IRR capitalizes on the sensitivity of the digital cameras to wavelengths within the range of the infrared spectrum. These are reflected or absorbed by Inks and other black materials that are commonly used for underdrawing or writing to absorb infrared, enabling their visibility when obscured or faded by the surface layers. The translation of the longest found inscription on these doors, written in the Persian, describes the difficulty making the doors that may also refer to their larger setting. It is a pair of doors like a cupboard doors (Height. 59 1/4 inch Width. 32 inch Gr. Depth. 3 1/2 inch Weight. 48 lbs. or 21.8 kg).
The pair of carved doors has various hidden scripts. It served the purpose of a door, artistic effect to show status of the residents. It is made of wood that is considered a suitable material for making doors in Islamic culture. It is placed at a position of standing with the gallery wall. The back of the doors is plain, so it is not necessary to show the back to the audience, so front side is on display. It has an eye capturing effect and gives the effect of a large painting to its audience. The carved doors did not seem like doors at all due to heavy artistic work carved on them. These doors can open and close as the doors of a simple cupboard. This piece of art has an eye capturing effect. It is a wooden piece of art shows the great interest of Muslim artists in creating things with their creativity. Various inscriptions were revealed in it during an examination that showed its importance to experts.
Cauldron was made during mid-15th century at Caucasus, Dagestan. It has Islamic cultural background and is made of Copper alloy. Artist of this masterpiece is unknown. It is also on display at Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cauldron was made as a gift of Mrs. Ruth Bulmka, in the memory of Leopold Blumka. It can be considered as a cooking pot, but the artistic work that is done on it makes it different from normal cooking pot. Cauldron is a majestic piece of art that is one of its kinds with a background of Islamic culture. In Islamic culture, it is an ordinary thing to cook in large pots for a large number of people because Muslims prefers to eat in gatherings. It is a big cooking pot (Height 15 3/8 inch or 39 cm). It was a gift of Mrs. Ruth Blumka, in memory of Leopold Blumka.
The Cauldron was made for the purposed of cooking in high level gatherings and presented as a gift. It is made of Metal alloys since it can be used as cooking pot. It is worked and incised. It is placed at the center of the gallery to capture the attention from all sides. It ads effect of old age to the overall outlook of the gallery. It seems like a large cooking pot. It looks heavy due to large size and metallic body. It is a great piece of art that brings a feeling of being in old age by just looking at it. Heavy metallic work shows arduous nature of the job done by the maker.
The visit to Metropolitan Museum of Art brought enhanced understanding of the nature of Islamic art. The three object highlighted for studying in relation to the topic were the Incense Burner, the Pair of Carved Doors, and Cauldron. Each of these artifacts were made in the early Islamic age during which Islam prospered around the globe and Islamic scholars and artists enhanced their culture through introducing new domains within the subject of arts. Arts was not limited to painting only in Islamic era and got expansion to pottery, forging, and other forms of making artistic sculptures.
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