Exhibition: Precious and Rare: Islamic Metalwork from The Courtauld Gallery, Multiple UK Venues 2020-2021

The Courtauld announces rescheduled dates for its UK tour of Islamic metalwork

The Courtauld Gallery is pleased to announce rescheduled dates for its Precious and Rare touring exhibition of ten remarkable pieces of Islamic metalwork dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries.

The UK tour opened at Royal Truro Museum, Cornwall, in autumn 2019 and then travelled to Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford earlier this year before being temporarily closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Precious and Rare: Islamic Metalwork from The Courtauld Gallery is due to reopen in Bradford on 28 August and will then travel to the History of Science Museum, Oxford, in October 2020. The final date of the tour will be at the Holburne Museum, Bath, in January 2021, where the objects will be displayed as part of a small, stand-alone exhibition. This national tour is in partnership with the Specialist Subject Network for Islamic Art and Material Culture and supported by Art Fund.

The Courtauld’s Islamic metalwork collection includes some of the finest examples of this intricate craft from modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Turkey. The temporary closure of The Courtauld Gallery for a major transformation project has created the opportunity for The Courtauld to share these precious pieces from its collection with museums around the country. The tour also complements The Courtauld’s National Partners Programme which provides unique opportunities for audiences across the UK to engage with The Courtauld’s collection – including in Belfast, Braintree, Coventry, Hull, Preston and Wolverhampton. The Gallery is scheduled to reopen in Somerset House, central London, in 2021.

The Courtauld Gallery’s small but renowned collection of Islamic metalwork was formed by one of the great Victorian art collectors, Thomas Gambier Parry (1816- 1888), to complement his collection of precious medieval and early Renaissance paintings and decorative arts, with which they are normally displayed. Many of the best pieces in the collection have been on permanent display in The Courtauld Gallery since their bequest in 1966, and only a few pieces have ever been on loan before. The metalwork has been cleaned and conserved for the first time since the bequest was made, over fifty years ago.

The most spectacular piece in the collection is the Courtauld Bag, made in Mosul, present-day northern Iraq, for a noble lady of the Persian-Mongol court, around 1300 – 1330. It is recognised as one of the finest pieces of Islamic inlaid metalwork in existence, and is the only surviving object of its kind.

Led by Dr Alexandra Gerstein, The Courtauld Gallery’s curator of sculpture and decorative arts, the touring exhibition will allow museum partners the opportunity to both study and showcase the stories behind these rare works. Dr Gerstein said: “We are thrilled to continue working with our three remaining partners on the Precious and Rare touring exhibition, and that The Courtauld has partnered with such a range of notable organisations. The exhibition provides an opportunity for people across the country to experience and enjoy some of the most treasured art works from The Courtauld’s collection, and to find out more about their fascinating history.”

This important and little-known area of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection offers an opportunity for visitors around the country to learn more about a fascinating area of the arts of Islam. To support this, Dr Sussan Babaie, Reader in the Arts of Iran and Islam at The Courtauld, best known for her extensive research on Persian and Islamic art and architecture of the early modern period, is working with each tour partner to deliver a talk or event for local audiences. Sensory Experience in Islamic Arts, delivered virtually in collaboration with Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in June can still be viewed online.

The Courtauld Research Forum will also host a symposium event in partnership with The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) in November. More details to be announced soon.

Tour Dates:

More information can be found here.

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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