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Art Gallery: Passion for Perfection, Islamic art from the Khalili Collections in Amsterdam

Passion-for-Perfection-Islamic-art-000-War-Mask-Anatolia-or-Western-Iran-15th century-iDe Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Amsterdam will present highlights from one of the world’s most renowned collections of Islamic art.

Passion for Perfection will include some 500 objects from the collection of Professor Nasser D. Khalili. From 11 December 2010 to 17 April 2011, De Nieuwe Kerk will glitter with richly illuminated Qur’ans and manuscripts, paintings, gold, jewels, textiles, ceramics, glassware, lacquerware, metalwork, and wood carvings.

These are works of great historical and artistic value, illustrating the refinement and grandeur of Islamic art and bearing witness to a quest for perfect craftsmanship. Passion for Perfection shows that Islamic art is a masterly expression, not of a single national culture or civilization, but of the many peoples joined by Islam for more than 1,400 years.

Passion for Perfection – Islamic Art from the Khalili Collections, Photo courtesy De Niuwe Kerk, Amsterdam -1.

At the same time, the exhibition demonstrates the passion and expertise of Professor Khalili, who has assembled an unrivalled private collection of exceptionally fine Islamic art objects. The exhibition designer is Siebe Tettero, particularly known for his work for the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the fashion house of Viktor & Rolf.

Passion for Perfection – Islamic Art from the Khalili Collections, Photo courtesy De Niuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.

The central theme of Passion for Perfection is the beauty and exquisite workmanship of Islamic art. The Islamic world is highly diverse, geographically and culturally, and more than thirteen centuries of Islamic artistry are represented in the Khalili Collections. It includes masterpieces from all over the Islamic world: from China and India to Iran and Iraq, from Egypt and Tunisia to Turkey and Spain.

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The term ‘Islamic’ does not imply that all these works of art were made specifically for religious purposes; it is their artistic language that is rooted in Islamic philosophy, often reflecting local culture and traditions.

Calligraphic composition in the form of a lion - Ahmed Hilmi - Ink and watercolour on paper - Ottoman Turkey 1913

Calligraphic composition in the form of a lion - Ahmed Hilmi - Ink and watercolour on paper - Ottoman Turkey 1913

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Besides calligraphic decoration and geometric patterns, arabesques and elegant scrollwork, there is also a strong emphasis on representations of humans and animals, the latter tolerated only in secular contexts. Many such representations are found in miniature paintings and in virtually all of the branches of the decorative arts.

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The exhibition will be divided into themes such as Captivating Calligraphy, with magnificent illuminated Qur’ans and rare manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 19th century, Shining Showpieces, with ingeniously fabricated jewellery adorned with precious stones, as well as colourful enamels that belonged to India’s Mughal rulers, and Delicately Drawn, with the finest miniatures from Iran and India.

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One highlight is the Jami‘ al-Tawarikh, the first survey of Muslim history, written from the perspective of the Mongol conquerors by Rashid al-Din in 1314’1315.

This is the first time that such a large selection from the Khalili Collections is to be displayed in the Netherlands. The exhibition was previously shown in Sydney, Abu Dhabi, and Paris.

War Mask - Anatolia or Western Iran -15th century

War Mask - Anatolia or Western Iran -15th century

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Drawing of two dervishes - Iran - 15th Century

Drawing of two dervishes - Iran - 15th Century

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Fath Ali Shah's portrait - Iran - 19th Century

Fath Ali Shah's portrait - Iran - 19th Century

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Shirt of steel  - Northen Caucasus (for Persian or Ottoman market) - late 15th century

Shirt of steel - Northen Caucasus (for Persian or Ottoman market) - late 15th century

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Silver dirham - Konya

Silver dirham - Konya

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Turban ornament - South India - 19th-century

Turban ornament - South India - 19th-century

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young Woman with Indian headdress - Ferdowsi's Shahnameh - Iran 1648

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Dragon door handles - Jazira - 13th century

Dragon door handles - Jazira - 13th century

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Sources:   De Nieuwe and Khalili Collections