The Arts of Islam Exhibition – Art Gallery of NSW

Posted by jerry on July 15th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal

The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney has an exhibition of Islamic art treasures from the collection of Nasser D. Khalili in the UK – one of the largest private collections of Islamic art.

I was enthralled within minutes of entering the exhibition with three things catching my eye – in addition to the large planispheric astrolabe displayed with all the parts separated so you could see the exquisite engraving. The three things were: part two of a thirty part Qur’an (koran) from the 9th century AD in which the text block observes the proportions of the Golden Section, discovered by Pythgoras and reintroduced to Renaissance Italy. But Islamic mathematicians were well aware of the Golden Section, and there is evidence of its use throughout the Islamic world long before the Italian renaissance. The second was an 11th century part of a Qur’an which has disc motifs inserted at key passages in the test, which reference other passages – a form of 11th century hyperlinking.

And the third was an illustration of Noah’s ark under construction, in which most of the woodworking handcraft skills are illustrated – frame saws used to slab timber, planes used to smooth, a bow drill for hole drilling and so on all in wonderful detail.

I could go on about the decorated glassware and delicately carved caskets, but suffice to say it is well worth the entrance fee – we rarely get to see European private collections, and especially those put together with a connoisseur’s eye as well as this one.

The exhibition is on until late September


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