The Farjam Collection is one of the most impressive privately-owned collections in the world today. Featuring Islamic and pre-Islamic art, Contemporary Middle-Eastern art and International Modern and Contemporary Art, the Collection is born of a passion for art, exploration and travel, reflecting the affinities and tastes of a seasoned collector. Through a timeless journey into art, it embodies the fusion of cultures and traditions between East and West.
The Islamic section of the collection spans the entire history of Islam, bringing together items produced throughout the vast region between Andalusia and Mughal India. Its treasures include Quranic manuscripts, miniatures and illustrated books on science, mathematics and poetry, as well as finely-decorated metalwork, lacquer, glasswork, tiles, glazed pottery, woodwork, textiles, coins, jewelry, and fine carpets.
The Holy Quran
Qur’anic manuscripts and calligraphic forms with which the word of God was recorded were of great importance. As a means to express praise, faith and adhesion to Islam, transcriptions of the Qur’an were highly valued. Over the centuries, a variety of scripts were used, including Hijazi, Kufic, Thuluth, Muhaqqaq. Nakshi and Rihani. Each followed strict rules of design put forth by master calligraphers as early as she the 4th century AH. Decorated with elegance, care and sincerity, each Leaf reflects the scribe’s mastery of proportionality and the efforts of a number of other specialists from paper makers to bookbinders.
Particular attention was given to the illumination of Qur’anic manuscripts and these now document the evolution of illumination as an Islamic art. The decorations, initially limited to gold illuminations and simple heading illustrations, readied their highest levels of sophistication between the 7th and 11th centuries. The Holy Quran.
While early secular manuscripts from the Islamic world were simple and unadorned, they became increasingly stylized and ornate as the techniques employed in Qur’ans were gradually applied to a wider variety of texts. During the 6th and 7th centuries, as Baghdad became an important cultural centre, numerous scholars participated in the production of Scientific and literary words on subjects such as mathematics, a sinology, medicine, history, and poetry. From the 7th century onwards, such texts were accompanied by detailed paintings and images. These complemented the art of calligraphy and added a new visual dimension to the manuscripts, different from traditional Qur’anic illumination.
Secular books and manuscripts were treated with such skill and technique that some examples are considered not only as valuable documents, but also as artworks in their own right. The striking delicacy of later pieces made manuscript illustration one of the most lauded forms of Islamic art and helped disseminate the culture and religion of Islam throughout the world.
Originally used to transcribe the heavenly word of the Qur’an, Islamic calligraphy was from its inception associated with sacredness and spirituality. Early Hijazi and Kufic scripts were adopted to transcribe the Qur’an, gradually evolving into more complex and stylized forms that could be adapted to different media and subject matters. Classical scripts were perfected during the 4th century AH by Vizier Ibn Muqla who also classified the six most popular styles of writing or Aqlam-i- Silta, known us Muhaqqaq. Rihani, Thuluth, Naskhi. Taqi and Riqa. Furthering the achievements of these early treatises, prominent masters such as Yaqut Musta’simi in the 7th century AH, brought calligraphy to new heights of ingenuity, recognition and popularity.
Extending from manuscripts, calligraphy was soon used on a wide range of artefacts including metalwork. ceramics, testes, glasswork and glazed tiles. The Arabic alphabet, through the expansion of Islamic culture and religion, was and still is used to write a host of other languages, particularly Persian; Ottoman Turkish and Urdu. Today, calligraphic art is widely popular in Contemporary art production throughout the Islamic world.
Metalwork is amongst the most distinguished achievement in Islamic art. From the early days of the Umayyad’s, artfully crafted metal wares were produced in workshops throughout the Islamic world, leading to the establishment of a rich tradition that persists today.
Inspired by a quest for beauty and precision in everyday objects, works on metal became an outlet for aesthetic imagination and skilful craftsman- ship. From the 4th to 14th AH, Syria, Egypt. Khorasan and Mesopotamia were among the main production centers of Islamic metalwork. A large variety of items, including vessels. lamps, armour, inkwells and incense burners were manufactured by casting or working metal into intricate shapes of all sizes. These artefacts would then be decorated and sometimes embellislied with elegant inscriptions. Occasionally, objects were inlaid with gold, silver or precious stones. An important part of the beauty of Islamic metalwork lies in the harmonious treatment of proportions. Through the careful study of decorative and manufacturing techniques, artisans managed to create functional works of exquisite beauty.
Glass, Glazed Tiles and Ceramics
Light associated with the light of the heavens and the radiance of the divine essence, has always played an important role in Islamic Culture. Islamic artists and craftsmen wishing to imbue their working with such meanings paid particular attention to bright materials and luminous surfaces.
In Iran, the Ottoman Empire and Syria, walls were covered with glazed and gleaming tiles decorated with geometric patterns and highly stylised floral and foliate motifs. Although the production of tiles was prominent throughout the Islamic world, Safavid and Iznik tiles were particularly popular and are considered to be extraordinary examples of pottery.
Inspired by Roman techniques, early Islamic glasswork was first developed in Egypt and Syria . Initially stained or lustre-painted, by the 3rd century AH the decoration of glasswork entailed intricate incisions and complex relief patterns. These methods were later perfected during the Fatimid and early Ayyubid periods. Influenced by late Sasanian practices, the carved crystals of Fatimid Egypt and the delicate and colourful carved glasses produced between the 4th and 6th century AH in Nishapur and Syria, are amongst the best examples of glasswork.
The earliest examples of Islamic ceramics closely resemble the alkaline glazed vessels produced in Egypt during the 4th millennium BC, Known as ‘ Egyptian faince’. This type of earthen ware continued to be manufactured in the Parthian and Sasanian Empires and its style remained unchanged for centuries. In the 2nd century AH artisans of the early Abbasid period introduced new techniques that would transform Islamic pottery. Production centres spread from Samarkand to Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria, Northern Africa and Andalusia. From the slip-painted wares of the Samanid period to the late Iznik polychrome pottery of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic world fashioned incredibly fine examples of ceramics and pioneered the vast array of decorative styles and designs that have influenced ceramic production around the world.
Coins and Jewellery
Islamic coins were first produced during the Umayyad Caliphate and decorated by two horizontal lines and one or more curved lines on the rim. Although the use of these geometrically decorated examples columned for several centuries, calligraphy devices were eventually adopted. These evolved from simple inscriptions in Kufic to more complex designs in Thuluth and Nastaliq scripts which occasionally adorned valuable Islamic gold coins.
Ornaments and jewellery were also admired throughout the Islamic world and their design and production became an important industrial, artistic and scientific profession. Precious stones and minerals were carefully studied by Scholars such as Abu Rayhan al-Biruni who wrote a treatise on mineralogy and gems as early as the 4th Century AH. These first interpretations were very influential, affecting the way a particular stone was handled, worked and valued.
The rich design and fine quality of earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces produced by Islamic jewellers have been admired by European travellers for centuries and are still a source of inspiration in the design of modem jewellery.
Relatively soft and easy to carve, wood was an important medium in the production of Islamic art. Doors, tables. coffins, boxes and cabinets were decorated with carved designs and inlaid with ivory and ebony. Inlaid doors came to be seen as the best examples of elaborate woodwork and craftsmanship. Their long and narrow panels accommodated spectacular spiral patterns; arabesques and carved inscriptions of the highest intricacy.
During the 8th and 9th century AH, woodwork became more complex and delicate. Artists intertwined writings in Naskhi and Thuluth scripts with decorative vegetal and bird patterns. Such works, produced in large quantities in Mongolian India, the Ottoman Empire. Syria and Egypt helped develop a common aesthetic language rooted in geometric designs, floral motifs and calligraphic devices.
These patterns were similarly employed between 7th and 9th century AH in Nasrid Spain, where micro mosaic decoration was practised and perfected influenced by the Islamic tradition from the Umayyad period of embellishing walnut with carved ivory. Nasrid woodwork was typically inlaid with ivory, bone, metal and mother-of-pearl. This technique persisted after the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula and can be seen in post Renaissance European furniture.
The art of weaving in the Islamic world evolved from the simple forms reflected in the earliest surviving textiles to the sophisticated patterns and delicate textures that characterized production between the 8th and 11thCenturies AH.
Initially common in tomb covers, woven or embroidered inscriptions became increasingly complex during the 5th and 6th century AH and played important role in decorating the textiles produced in Fatimid Egypt and Mesopotamia. Highly-stylised calligraphic designs complimented the animal and bind patterns drawn from earlier Sasanid textile medallions.
During the 10th century AH, silk textiles adorned with rich patterns and colours were developed the Ottoman Empire. Brocades and velvets were woven with exceptional skill and decorated with floral designs, Both magnificent curtains for the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and monumental hizamat for the Holy Ka’ba at Mecca were embroidered with gold and silver thread on large silk and velvet shrouds.
Demand in the West was high for textiles designed and woven in the Islamic world, particularly for decorated Persian, Indian and Ottoman silks. These had an undeniable influence on the history of textile production throughout the world and were frequently imitated.
Although painting glazed surfaces on dense cardboard dates back to the5th century AH, Islamic lacquer truly bloomed between the 10th and 14th century AH. This practise involved covering papier-mache artefacts with layers of lacquer, which were then decorated with miniature pointings or illumination and staled with bright coin of varnish.
Lacquer was similarly popular in China and Japan, although the methods and variety of artefacts used in the Islamic world considerably. Associated with Iranian polychrome work on pen cases and boxes, Islamic lacquer was also predominant in the production of bookbindings, mirror-cases and caskets. Images of birds and flowers were usually used when decorating Qur’an and religious bookbinding. The subject matter and styles of these varies greatly. Depending on the client’s tastes and the artist’s area of expertise, works might have depicted lyrical portraits, landscapes, battle and burning scenes or royal gatherings.
Lacquer production was increasingly prominent frail the second half of the 10th century to the 13th century AH. Court artists, led by Muhammad Zaman in the 11th century AH; introduced figural miniature paintings that were produced in great numbers in Isfahan. Typically found on pen boxes sold in Iran, their influence extended far beyond lite Islamic world and to Russia in particular.
There are unfortunately very few surviving examples of early Islamic rugs and carpets, most probably due to the gradual erosion caused by use over time and the particular sensitivity of wool, silk and other materials used in their production. Written accounts, however, confirm that carpet weaving was widely practised and that those in charge of their design were ranked amongst the most important artists of their time.
Until the end of the 9th century AH, rugs and carpets, were mostly decorated with geometric patterns, gradually evolving to include Spi¬rals, central medallions and four-sided triangles or lachaki. Later designs were more figurative, incorporating stylised depletions of animals and floral motifs.
Iran. India, Egypt, Anatolia and the Caucasus were the main centres for the design and production of valuable carpels. Encouraged by increasingly high demand, carpet workshops across the Islamic world expanded their production to include silk as well as wool. Revered for the quality of their execution, the harmony of their patterns and the colours of these carpets were globally acclaimed and traded by travellers, who exported Item to Europe and America.
- Calligraphy in Islamic art – beyond pen and paper (islamic-arts.org)
- From Middle East to Middle Kingdom (islamic-arts.org)