In a rapprochement bid between the Muslim world and the West, France has initiated a gigantic task by introducing a section dedicated to Islamic Art at Louvre Museum in Paris. The innovative architectural extension to the world’s largest museum is an endeavour to recognize the remarkable Islamic civilisation, and its contribution to the world, said the Ambassador of France to Pakistan, Mr. Philippe Thiebaud, speaking to journalists at the Alliance Française of Islamabad on Wednesday.
“The objective of the renowned museum is “to build bridges between the East and the West where we can speak of our differences but also, and above all, our shared history and reciprocal influences over the centuries”, informed the French Ambassador.
A short, informative video was shown at the occasion which offered a rare glimpse into the newly-built department that has an undulating glass and metal roof, resembling a floating carpet that covers more than 30,000 square feet and is surrounded by the neo-classical facades of a 17th century courtyard. Beneath the canopy, one can appreciate the exceptional collections of Islamic civilization, from the seventh-century dawn of Islam and its empires up to 18th century, and across three continents, from Spain to South Asia.
Among the 2,500 artifacts in the gallery, there are ceramics, glassware, and carpets; architectural accents; colorful miniatures; sculpted ivory and jade; magnificent inlaid metalwork, and calligraphy. Some of the celebrated artworks are: mosaics from the Damascus mosque and a delicately carved ivory box from 928, and a 15th Century Mamluk porch, door panel from the Dar-al-Khilafa, Samarra and from Iran, an astronomer’s celestial globe dated 1144, brass with stars inlaid in silver.
The 10th-century Al-Mughira Pyxis – a round ivory casket 16 centimeters high, a masterpiece from Córdoba carved in intricate high-relief scenes; a 17th-century Mughal , dagger – its jade horse-head hilt, its rein in rubies, emeralds, and gold, on a blade of Damascus steel and wall of 572 Ottoman tiles comprise of the worthy collection.
The new extension of the museum has generally been welcomed, but comes at a sensitive time in relations between the Muslim world and the West. The cultural rapprochement move by France is hoped to tone down growing unrest and misunderstanding between the west and East.
The gallery was actually former President Jacques Chirac’s idea who wanted to highlight the contributions of Muslim civilizations to Western culture, informed the Ambassador at one moment. Since the first exhibitions devoted to Islamic art in Paris, in 1893 and 1903, the collection at the museum grew substantially, with Paris affirming its superiority as a magnet for lovers of Islamic art in the Western world.