Wagner Garden Carpet – Metropolitan Museum

Sheila R. Canby

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Through the summer of 2018, The Metropolitan Museum will have the privilege of showing the Wagner Garden Carpet, a 17th-century Persian carpet never before exhibited outside the United Kingdom. While its home institution, the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, undergoes renovation, the carpet will travel to several museums in North America. Composed on the classic plan of the chahar bagh in which canals teeming with fish intersect garden plots alive with trees, flowers, birds, and wild animals, this carpet evokes eternal springtime.

Sheila R. Canby is the Metropolitan Museum of Art's curator of Islamic art and a former curator of Islamic art and antiquities at the British Museum. She is a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.  She has held positions at the Brooklyn MuseumLos Angeles County Museum of ArtPhiladelphia Museum of ArtFogg Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She was a visiting lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Framing the Islamic Prayer Rug: Image, Symbolism and Function

Jeff Spurr

Thursday, October 11, 2018

In 1974, Richard Ettinghausen marshaled the then available early literary and visual evidence, especially that to be found in miniature paintings, for the presence of prayer rugs in Muslim societies. In 2003, I published a complementary article in Hali addressing the relation of rugs and textiles to the pragmatics of Muslim prayer. In the light of new information, and adopting a more synthetic approach, I will be focusing on the nexus of religious themes, devotional concerns, visual imagery, and practical matters that resulted in the development of the prayer rug as an iconographically distinct object, and of visually and symbolically related textiles. To achieve this aim, I will also address the artistic and architectural environment that frames and informs these objects, starting from the beginnings of Islam.

Jeff Spurr is a scholar of Islamic textiles — with particular focus on the Kashmir shawl, the textiles of Central Asia, and the Islamic prayer rug — and of the history of photography in the Middle East. At Harvard University, he devoted 26 years to documenting Islamic visual culture and to building collections of historical photographs of the Middle East. He has curated or co-curated several exhibits, and co-authored books, published articles, and given papers in both fields.