Displayed on the ground floor of the South Building of Somerset House, the décor of the Hermitage Rooms recreates, in miniature, the imperial splendour of the Winter Palace and its various wings which now make up The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. This imperial setting provides the perfect backdrop for rotating exhibitions from the collections of the Museum in St Petersburg and other Hermitage-related activities.
Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands
Islamic Art from The State Hermitage Museum and The Khalili Collection
Until 22 August 2004
This exhibition comprises 133 exhibits loaned from the collections of The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and The Khalili Collection, London. It presents a series of masterpieces of Islamic art - Qur’ans, textiles, metalwork, pottery, goldsmith’s work and paintings - ranging from the 8 th to the 19 th century, and from Spain and the Near East to Persia, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The exhibition illustrates how these works were created to the glory of God on the one hand and to the glory of human rulers, God’s representatives on earth, on the other.
This is the second exhibition following the alliance between the Courtauld Institute of Art and The State Hermitage Museum in 2003, which was made possible by a generous grant from the Edmond J Safra Philanthropic Foundation. The grant enables one of the world’s most eminent teaching and research institutions and one of the world’s great museums to carry out joint research, exhibition, publication and conservation programmes.
The Oriental Department of The State Hermitage Museum enjoys an international reputation for the wealth of its collections and for the contribution of its specialists to our knowledge of the arts of the East. It is celebrated for its unique collection of 10 th to 16 th century bronzes and early mediaeval silver, the latter being the finest in the world, its 12 th to 17 th century Persian pottery and tiles, its masterpieces of jewellery and goldsmiths’ work from the Mughal treasury in Delhi, which was sacked by Nadir Shah in 1739, and for its superb specimens of the painting of 19 th century Qajar Iran.
With its 20,000 pieces covering the artistic production of the entire Islamic world over a period of some 1,400 years, The Khalili Collection now ranks among the most important private collections in the world. It includes a collection of Qur’ans ranging from the earliest centuries of Islam up to the 19 th century, which for comprehensiveness is difficult to parallel even in public collections, and an array of Persian and Mughal miniatures and illustrated manuscripts, as well as outstanding assemblages of pottery, textiles, glass and metalwork.
The central gallery of the Hermitage Rooms is hung with exquisite 16 th and 17 th century Persian and Mughal miniatures from illustrated manuscripts and pages from albums. For conservation reasons, the works on display will change halfway through the exhibition, on 9 June, from the 17 works from The State Hermitage Museum currently displayed to 26 important examples from The Khalili Collection.
To accompany the exhibition Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands, an extensive series of lectures will be given on Tuesday evenings. World-renowned Islamic scholars will deliver lectures examining aspects of Islamic art. The lectures will take place at 5.30 pm in the Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre at the Courtauld Institute of Art and admission is free.
4 MayRussia as an Islamic Country
Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of The State Hermitage Museum
11 MayA World of Wonder: Sculpture in Medieval Persian Islamic Art
Professor J. M. Rogers, Honorary Curator, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art
18 MayThe Prince in the Garden: Frontispieces of Persian Manuscripts, 1575-1630
Dr Sheila Canby, Curator of Islamic Art and Antiquities, Department of Asia, British Museum
25 May The Art of the Qur'an
Tim Stanley, Senior Curator, Middle East, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum
In addition to the evening lectures, a series of lunchtime talks will take place in the Heaven on Earth exhibition at the Hermitage Rooms on Fridays at 1.15 pm. Each lecture will focus on a particular object in the exhibition and is included in the price of admission.