Department of Islamic Arts, Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The Islamic arts department of the Louvre, formed in August 2003, brings together collections covering the entire Islamic world (geographical area between Spain and India ) from the Hegira to the 19th century. The Islamic art collection, the museum’s newest, spans “thirteen centuries and three continents”. These exhibits, of ceramics, glass, metalware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures, include more than 5,000 works and 1,000 shards.

Originally part of the decorative arts department, the holdings became separate in 2003. Among the works are the Pyxide d’al-Mughira, a 10th century ivory box from Andalusia; the Baptistery of Saint-Louis, an engraved brass basin from the 13th or 14th century Mamluk period; and the 10th century Shroud of Saint-Josse from Iran. The collection contains three pages of the Shahnameh, an epic book of poems by Ferdowsi in Persian, and a Syrian metalwork named the Barberini Vase.

This department brings together several jewels of Islamic art: the pyxis of al-Mughira, a Spanish ivory box dated 968, the peacock dish, important Ottoman ceramics, and especially the baptistery of Saint Louis, one of the most famous pieces. and the most enigmatic of all Islamic art, created by Muhammad ibn al-Zayn in the early 14th century. It is also remarkable for the important material from the excavations of Susa (now Iran ), in which the museum took part.

Since September 22, 2012, the arts of Islam are exhibited at the Louvre in the Cour Visconti. This space allows the exhibition of 3,000 works, from the collections of the Louvre, but also from the museum of decorative arts. The Cour Visconti is covered with an aerial veil made up of glazing of 1,600 triangles, superimposed with two layers of aluminum of different thicknesses. It is the largest collection of Islamic objects in the world with that of the Metropolitan of New York.

In September 2019, a new and improved Islamic art department was opened by Princess Lamia bint Majed Al Saud. The new department exhibits 3,000 pieces were collected from Spain to India via the Arabian peninsula dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Islamic Arts, this extremely vast section of the history of art extends in the collections of the Louvre museum from the birth of the Muslim religion in 632, until the 19th century. The geographic area covered by Louvre Museum’s collections spans three continents, from Spain to India, via North Africa and Egypt.

The first works of Islamic art entered the Louvre when it was created in 1793. The first rooms date from 1893. At the time, this art was called “Muslim arts”. These names refer not to a religious art, but to Eastern and African territories of mainly Islamic culture.

The origins of the Islamic collection of the Louvre Museum go back to “a few magnificent shipwrecks” from the royal collections and the treasury of Saint-Denis. Among these pieces, the bird ewer in rock crystal, the Baptistery of Saint Louis from the collections of the Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes (entered the Royal Museum in 1832 ) as well as jade cups present in the collections of Louis XIV.

A few donations were added in the 19th century thanks to the discovery of the arts of Islam, travels to the Orient and the academic birth of the discipline, but in very small numbers. It was only with the creation in 1890 or 1893 of an “Islamic section” attached to the Department of Works of Art that the constitution of a coherent collection was implemented.

The collection is enormously enriched during the 19th century and the 20th century at the time when Paris is the world place of orientalist taste. The Louvre presented these collections first within the Department of Works of Art, then alongside Oriental Antiquities. It is finally in 2012 that the collection is installed in an architecture designed especially for it, and on creation by decree of the President of the Republic of an autonomous department dedicated to this civilization.

In 1905, two years after the great exhibition of Muslim art at the Pavillon de Marsan. Paris, at that time, was the “hub of oriental art”. The biggest sales take place at Drouot or at merchants such as Demotte. Several acquisitions for consideration were made during the first half of the 20th century: the ewer with the zodiac, ceramics with metallic reflections, the Bottle with the coat of arms of Tuquztimur and the Capital in the name of Caliph al-Hakam II to name but a few.

Gaston Migeon, curator of the young section constantly encourages many amateurs to donate, bequeath their objects, and thus constitutes the largest part of the museum’s collection. Several of them took part in the opening of the Muslim art room in 1905; a few years later, the numerous miniatures of Georges Marteau or the collection of Baroness Delort de Gléon created a solid base for the new department. The latter even offers, in addition to its objects, a strong financial contribution to redevelop the rooms and present more works. So the June 20, 1922, a larger presentation is inaugurated.

The Société des Amis du Louvre played a major role in this first period of acquisitions. Its director, Raymond Kœchlin, was an enlightened amateur, who himself bequeathed his large collection to the museum in 1932. It thus allowed the arrival of several major pieces, such as an Iranian hare cup signed by its potter in 1921.

On the death of Gaston Migeon in 1923, donations and bequests did not cease, and often concerned major pieces. In 1935, Alphonse Kann donated a Samanid dish with epigraphic decoration; in 1939, Count Hubert de Ganay offered in memory of his aunt the Countess of Béhague a Persian fabric from the 16th century, close to a piece preserved in New York and supposed to come from the tent of Kara Mustapha Pasha during the Siege of Vienna; in 1937, the Société des Amis du Louvre acquired the Gate of the Palace of the Jawsaq al-Khaqani of Samarra, whose product of the excavations, then carried out by Germans, enriches for the rest the museum of Berlin. The Louvre Museum is also present on oriental excavation sites, in particular in Susa (Iran). The excavations carried out successively by the couple Marcel and Jane Dieulafoy (1884 – 1886), who crossed Persia, and Jacques de Morgan (1897 – 1909) then Roland de Mecquenem(1903 – 1939), bring to light many Islamic objects.

In 1927, a batch of one hundred and sixty-three objects was transferred from the Department of Oriental Antiquities to the “Muslim” section, which included all the ceramics from the three missions between 1884 and 1927. To it were added “a batch of glassware, a batch of ‘bronze object, a lot of stone object’. Other excavated objects entered the Louvre during this period. In addition to the Jawsaq Gate, several ceramics from Salamis in Cyprus, a site excavated since the end of the 19th century by the Cyprus Exploration Fund, were acquired for consideration in 1897.

In 1945, when the Musée Guimet was founded to house the Far Eastern collections, the section of Muslim arts was definitively detached from the Department of Works of Art to belong to the Department of Oriental Antiquities. But it was only with the Grand Louvre project and the opening of thirteen rooms in the Richelieu wing in 1993 that the arts of Islam regained real visibility in the museum. The presentation, chronological, covers an area of 1000 m². The first nine rooms, vaulted, are devoted to medieval objects, while three larger rooms, dug under the Khorsabad courtyard, allow the exhibition of productions from the period of the three empires.

Before the opening, the collections of the Louvre are highlighted in an exhibition in 1989-1990,Arabesques and Gardens of Paradise allowing, “while waiting for this final implementation which will take place in 1993 immediately mark the presence of Islamic art in the Louvre”. In 2003, the creation of a specific department, the eighth of the Louvre Museum, confirms the place of Islamic arts in the museum.

The museum currently boasts 14,000 Islamic works, to which are added 3,500 objects deposited by the museum of decorative arts in 2005. The closure in 2010 of the rooms in the Richelieu wing is explained by the project for a new presentation, in the Cour Visconti. The project of the architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini was selected for these new rooms which are inaugurated onSeptember 22, 2012. This new 3,000 m² space triples the area hitherto devoted to the arts of Islam.

The architectural project was also accompanied by a site of the collections and an important communication. The costs were 98.5 million euros; funding was made possible by the action of several patrons, including several from Arab countries or Central Asia (Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Azerbaijan ), the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, the Total Foundation, Lafarge, the Orange Foundation, Frédéric Jousset, Dai Nippon Printing, Sabanci University Sakip Sabanci Museum and Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali.

Open to the public on September 22, 2012, the current exhibition spaces, organized on two floors, are located in the Visconti courtyard. They take place under a canopy with wavy shapes, reminiscent, according to the architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini, of a “dragonfly’s wing” or a “flying carpet”. Two thousand three hundred and fifty triangles of glass, covered with a silver and gold metallic mesh, make up this cover. The architects claim, through this “organic” architecture, an architecture far removed from Western classical traditions, but which remains respectful of the facades of the Visconti courtyard.

The collection comprises 16,500 works (including 3,500 deposited by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs), which makes it one of the largest in the world with that of the Metropolitan Museum in New York (12,000 or 13,000 works), and those of the British Museum, the V&A Museum and the Islamic Museum of Berlin.

In total, 3,000 works are exhibited in 3 rooms covering 3,000 m² of exhibition space (4,000 m² for the MET). From the windows of certain rooms of the palace, one can see, in the heart of one of the interior courtyards, an astonishing undulating mesh of gilded metal. Since 2012, it is here, in an architecture of glass and light, that you can come and admire the Louvre’s Islamic Arts collection.

This glass and metal structure is the work of architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini and scenographer Renaud Piérard. It fits into the Cour Visconti, formerly open to the sky. But this is only the visible part: the collections are spread over two levels, with two different lighting atmospheres. The upper level opens like a glass box placed in the courtyard, under an astonishing corrugated metal roof. Sand dune or mashrabiya, everyone can give free rein to their imagination. Here, the works are bathed in natural light, but protected from the sun’s rays by the metal structure.

On the lower level, on the contrary, it is the reign of the mysterious discovery of treasures in a subdued atmosphere worthy of an Ali Baba’s cave. The works shimmer with their precious materials and their thousand colors. They transport us on multiple trips to the Orient, between Cordoba, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Aleppo, Mosul, Istanbul, Isfahan and Agra in India.

Discover the variety and luxury of these objects that belonged to caliphs, sultans or princes. Louvre Museum discover the inventiveness and the excellence of the artists through the shiny ceramics, sometimes with golden reflections or in Chinese blue, the metal basins and vases encrusted with gold and silver, the delicately carved ivories. Louvre Museum also immerse ourselves in the fascinating world of landscapes, gardens, scenes of life in palaces, through the masterpieces of miniature painting, silks or carpets. The superb enamelled glass lamps take us to the mosques of Cairo and the colored tiles of Iznik ceramics, to the monuments of Istanbul or Ispahan.

Louvre Museum
The Louvre is the world’s most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris, France. The Louvre Museum is a Parisian art and archeology museum housed in the former royal palace of the Louvre. Opened in 1793, it is one of the largest and richest museums in the world, but also the busiest with nearly 9 million visitors a year. It is the home of some of the best-known works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the Medieval Louvre fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to urban expansion, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into the primary residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace.

The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square metres (652,000 sq ft) dedicated to the permanent collection. The Louvre exhibits sculptures, objets d’art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds. The Louvre Museum presents very varied collections, with a large part devoted to the art and civilizations of Antiquity: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and RomeLogo indicating tariffs to quote that they; medieval Europe (setting around the ruins of the keep of Philippe-Auguste, on which the Louvre was built) and Napoleonic France are also widely represented.

The Louvre has a long history of artistic and historical conservation, from the Ancien Régime to the present day. Following the departure of Louis XIV for the Palace of Versailles at the end of the 17th century century, part of the royal collections of paintings and antique sculptures are stored there. After having housed several academies for a century, including that of painting and sculpture, as well as various artists housed by the king, the former royal palace was truly transformed during the Revolution into a “Central Museum of the Arts of the Republic”. It opened in 1793, exhibiting around 660 works, mainly from royal collections or confiscated from emigrant nobles or from churches. Subsequently, the collections will continue to be enriched by wartime spoils, acquisitions, sponsorships, legacies, donations, and archaeological discoveries.

Located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, between the right bank of the Seine and the rue de Rivoli, the museum is distinguished by the glass pyramid of its reception hall, erected in 1989 in the Napoleon courtyard and which has become emblematic, while the equestrian statue of Louis XIV constitutes the starting point of the Parisian historical axis. Among his most famous plays are The Mona Lisa, The Venus de Milo, The Crouching Scribe, The Victory of Samothrace, and The Code of Hammurabi.