Published: September 2006
On September 1, the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College opened Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection, Copenhagen, an exhibit of 123 works, most never before displayed in the United States. The exhibit is drawn from the David Collection, a museum of fine and applied art founded by C.L. David (1878–1960), a barrister of the Danish High Court who assembled one of the world’s premier holdings of Islamic decorative art dating from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries. The collection includes art used for religious purposes and secular art created in lands where Islam was a dominant faith, such as southern Spain, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent. The show’s curators, Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, joint holders of the Calderwood Chair in Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College, had unprecedented access to the David Collection (its permanent home in Copenhagen is closed for renovation, allowing the extensive loan), and their exhibit spans a variety of media—textiles, ceramics, metalwares, carved ivory, wood, rock-crystal, stone, parchment, and paper.
The exhibit pivots on ornaments’ roles in the visual arts of Islam, and is organized around four major themes of decoration (Cosmophilia means “love of ornament”): the numerous scripts of written Arabic, from nasta‘liq, the romantic cursive of Persian epics, to the sharper edges of muhaqqaq; representations of people and animals; patterns of triangles, squares, polygons, and stars; and vegetation, often abstracted into the arabesque, where plants grow according to rules of geometry rather than those of nature.
The exhibition is on view exclusively at the McMullen Museum, in Devlin Hall, through December 31, 2006.