The arts of Islam meet the younger generation

At the helm of the project, the Louvre, in co-production with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, all commissioned by the Ministry of Culture (which is funding the initiative to the tune of 4 million euros). So many beautiful people, even if everything takes place far from the capital. Angoulême, Limoges, Saint-Louis de la Réunion or Tourcoing: 18 cities played the game under the leadership of Yannick Lintz, director of the institution’s Islamic arts department. The curator worked with museums, media libraries and cultural spaces in the provinces and overseas to present (until March 27, 2022) the most beautiful residents of the prestigious Parisian collection, ten per exhibition, and “we n ‘we have not tapped into the back shops of our fund, we only present masterpieces, ”she underlines.

photo media_content">Bol à boire, Muhammad Ibn Alzayn, Egypte ou Syrie, vers 1320-1350, exposé à Marseille.

Drinking bowl, Muhammad Ibn Alzayn, Egypt or Syria, circa 1320-1350, exhibited in Marseille.

© Louvre Museum, Distr RMN-Grand Palais / Raphaël Chipault

It is an immersion in Islamic cultures, from Spain to India, from the 7th to the 19th century, to “bring within the reach of the general public the importance of the ancient and fruitful exchanges woven between France and the East”. Zoom in on the cultural and confessional diversity of this Islamic world for 1300 years and show the diversity of the territories and populations concerned. In these times of “religious fanaticism”, the young generation is the primary target of the operation. And “schoolchildren” will undoubtedly swell the ranks of visitors – these blond heads (and brunettes) to whom it is a question of “giving back the keys to understanding crossed pasts in order to build a shared future”. Focus on two key pieces exhibited in Seine-Maritime and in Yvelines.

Shown at Rouen Ceramics Museum, the 17th century horn of India was used to preserve moisture from the powder used for the primer of firearms, introduced here in the 16th century by Europeans. In jade – “a stone very difficult to cut, requiring diamond powder to polish it”, specifies the commissioner – this object adorned with an ibex head is encrusted with precious stones (emeralds and rubies) set in gold to compose delicately stylized flowers. The ceremonial accessory, which the rulers of the Mughal Empire offered to their most loyal officers, fell into the bosom of the Louvre in 1922, thanks to the bequest of Baroness Salomon de Rothschild.

photo media_content">Corne à poudre, Inde, XVIIe siècle.

Powder horn, India, 17th century.

© Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Arts

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Hanging in Mantes-la-Jolie, at the Hôtel-Dieu museum, next to the famous Notre-Dame collegiate church, here is a hunting binding plate from Iran in the 16th century. “In the royal manuscript workshops, a profession was related to that of painter: bookbinder. The same artist sometimes provided both, as here, where we have the equivalent of the Iranian Leonardo da Vinci”, comments Yannick Lintz. The prince is there wearing a pointed helmet; his assistants wear a turban. Facing the blue horse ridden by the dignitary, a small hand holds a falcon, while antelopes and felines evoke an oriental nature. On horses, we can see the finesse of the work down to the hair of a brush and the realistic detail of the nostrils. The composition smells of Asia. “In the 16th century, even though Iran looked to the Mediterranean in its diplomatic relations, this country had three centuries of the Silk Road and the invasion of Genghis Khan behind it.” Flowers and birds, clouds and mountains are thus permeated by Chinese prints and ceramics.

photo media_content">Reliure aux scènes de chasse, Iran, XVIe siècle (1560-1588).

Binding with hunting scenes, Iran, 16th century (1560-1588).

© Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Arts

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These treasures from the past can be viewed from folding frames offered to visitors by the various exhibition venues. It is a real challenge. “To see ten works while being seated, rather than 150, drowned in the crowd and after having queued: we are not in the bet of consumption, but in that of discovery and pleasure”, concludes the indefatigable Yannick Lintz.



Robin Rivaton, essayist, member of the scientific and evaluation council of the Foundation for political innovation (Fondapol).Robin Rivaton

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