Illuminated manuscripts, brass inlaid with silver and gold, polychrome enameled and gilded glass, ceramics, tiles, carved and inlaid wood, carpets and textiles -- 130 opulent art objects made by the Mamluks, rulers of Egypt and Syria for 250 years, will be displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History from May 15 through June 19. This will be the first major international exhibition of Mamluk-era art in the United States.
"Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks' will show Islamic art from the 13th to the 16th centuries. A photographic essay of marble mosaics, painted stucco, intricate woodwork, domes, portals, minarets, and cut and decorated stone is a highlight of the show.
Esin Atil, the Freer Gallery of Art's Islamic art expert who curated the exhibit, has written a book to accompany the event, to be published in Arabic and English. At the opening, a 3 1/2-day symposium will bring scholars from all over the world.
The Mamluks in the 13th century were bodyguards of Egyptian and Syrian rulers, but they themselves became a ruling dynasty, leaving behind them some of the greatest of Islamic art.
The exhibit was organized by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. Funding comes from United Technologies Corp., SITES and the Smithsonian Foreign Currency Program. Other locations on the two-year tour of the United States include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Cincinnati Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Phoenix Art Museum, and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.