Gulbenkian Prize 2007 Longlist - Jameel Gallery Of Islamic Art London

By Isla Harvey | 14 February 2007
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a photograph of the interior of a gallery with a large display case in the centre

Jameel Gallery looking south towards the Ardabil carpet and the minbar of Sultan Qa'itbay, made for a mosque in Cairo. © Richard Waite

The voting for the 2007 Readers' Poll for the Gulbenkian Prize is now closed

24 Hour Museum continues its alphabetical roundup of museums on this year's longlist for the Gulbenkian Prize with a look at an exotic collection of Islamic art at the V&A in London.

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art was opened at the V&A Museum in 2006 to showcase the finest artefacts from their Islamic collection.

The vast space holds over 400 examples of exquisite art originating from countries such as Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. The gallery includes both secular and religious pieces dated from the Islamic caliphate of the 9th century to the years preceding the First World War.

Featured is a wide selection of ceramics, textiles, metalwork, glass and woodwork, including furniture, household items and weaponry. The graceful sword of Shah Tahmasp is emblazoned with a lengthy inscription from the Qur’an on the subject of ‘Victory.’ Another inscription it carries traces the blade back to Musa al-Kazim, a descendant of Muhammad.

a photograph of a large and ornately carved minbar which is the Islamic equivalent of a pulpit

The minbar of Sultan Qa'itbay, made for a mosque in Cairo. © Richard Waite

Most of the objects have a utility but they are also finely crafted and often made of precious materials, such as an ivory casket from 11th century Spain and a hand carved rock crystal ewer from Egypt. Many of the exhibits were commissioned by great Sultans for their palaces or for the tombs of relatives.

The centrepiece is an intricate Ardabil carpet from 16th century Iran, the world’s oldest dated carpet. It is also one of the largest - an impressive 10.5m x 5m. It is inscribed with the date 946 in the Muslim calendar, which is equivalent to 1539-40 in western time.

a photograph of an ornate patterned jar

Basin with flowers and cypresses, Turkey (probably Iznik), 1550-5. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum

A three-year renovation from 2003 to 2006 transformed the space. The focal carpet is now exhibited horizontally on the floor in a specially designed case, so that it may be seen in its full glory at the proper angle.

The show is intended to raise awareness about Islamic culture and spread a deeper understanding of it in its multiple forms.

Should the Jameel Gallery win the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize? Go to the 24 Hour Museum’s vote page to vote for the Jameel Gallery or any of the other longlisted museums in the 24 Hour Museum’s Gulbenkian 2007 People’s Vote.

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