Fine and Applied Arts / Collecting

One endeavour of the 19th century was the study of the past. The scope of interest extended to all aspects of civilization, and included art and architecture. Within the wider spectrum of the history of art, Islamic art tended to be placed somewhere between late antiquity and the medieval period, or often it was studied using an ethnographic approach.

Colonialism and the presence of Europeans in the Middle East encouraged studies in Islamic art and, as the scholarly discipline evolved, it prompted both an interest in the private collecting of works of art and the enrichment of public and private collections. These were opened up to visitors in the latter part of the century.

Orientalism, exoticism, and a penchant for the variety seen in ornamental designs on works of art, were determining factors in the early stages of the historiography of Islamic art and collecting.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
SP 019TextilesLázaro Galdiano MuseumEarly 16th century; 1915–1930 (Lázaro Galdiano collection)Silk; lampas weaveIslamic art exhibitions gave new light to artworks and increased interest among collectors. One of the most important Spanish art collectors was Lázaro Galdiano. He had an interest in the Spanish Muslim period and bought a number of pieces from this period for his collection.
UK 066AstrolabeThe British Museum1236; acquisition date: 1855This astrolabe, which was made by ‘Abd al-Karim al-Misri in 1236, was acquired by the British Museum in 1855.
GR 050Les amis de l’art society, by the Greek cartonist KemBenaki Museum1920sPaper, inkThe cartoon shows the art collectors of Alexandria: on the left is Antonis Benakis holding a paintbrush; Konstantinos Synadinos washes the floor; Christophoros Nomikos hangs a ceramic dish on the wall; and Baron de Menasque, standing on a ladder, paints the ceiling.
AT 127Turkish jugsMAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art3rd quarter of the 19th centuryStoneware, glazed; illustration from a bookThese jugs were bought by the Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst at the World Trade Fair in Vienna in 1873.
UA 062Cairo, from the Gate of Citizenib, looking towards the Desert of SuezSharjah Art Museum / Sharjah Museums DepartmentPublished 1849LithographThe presence of Europeans in the Middle East prompted the study of Islamic architecture as sites were recorded in paintings, or later, with the use of photography.
SP 072View of Zaytuna Mosque, TunisNational Archaeological Museum1850–1892Albumen paper; albumen printThis is one of the 389 photographs taken by the Tunisian Antiquities Service. The photos were initially exhibited at the European Historic Exhibition held in Madrid in 1892, and when the exhibition ended the photographs were donated to the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid.