The David Collection is one of Copenhagen’s standout museums. While it’s home to three permanent collections, the most noteworthy is the one that highlights Islamic art. Easily the best Islamic art collection in Scandinavia – and perhaps in all of Europe – it displays pieces from the seventh to the 19th centuries, spanning a region that runs from Spain in the west all the way to China in the east, and from Uzbekistan in the north down to Yemen in the south.
Originally located on Kronprinsessegade, where it’s had its official premises since 1945, the museum closed in 2006 to renovate and expand its exhibition space. The David Collection reopened in 2009 with four magnificent new spaces, three devoted to each permanent collection (European 18th-century art, Danish early modern art and Islamic art) and a fourth for temporary exhibits.
The Islamic art collection started out over 50 years ago with a selection of medieval ceramics, and it has since grown to become one of the 10 most important Islamic art collections in the world. The museum carries around 1400 pieces of Islamic art and roughly 350 coins, displayed on two floors and presented in 20 sections divided chronologically and geographically. In addition, there are three separate galleries devoted to Islamic miniatures, calligraphy and textiles.
Integral to the collection is a detailed explanation of the Muslim religion that encompasses parts of the Koran, the five pillars of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, Mecca and the Kaaba, the importance of the mosque, the prohibition against images and the historic split between the main Sunni and Shia branches of Islam.
Other parts of the exhibition focus on specific time periods, like the historic years between 570 and 661 when Islam first appeared, the Umayyad Caliphate, Al Andalus (Muslim Spain, from 756 to 1492), the Mamluk period across Egypt and Syria (1250 to 1517) and the Ottoman era from 1300 to 1850. Some of the items on display include Arabic calligraphy in various script types, Koranic manuscripts, miniature Islamic paintings, earthenware tiles, ceramics from Iran, lacquer paintings on cardboard, stucco wall decorations from Iraq, silver and gold objects once owned by Muslim princes and, of course, the famed Middle Eastern carpets made of wool, cotton or silk.
One of the Danish’s capital great treasures, The David Collection is free of charge and well worth the visit.
Photos courtesy of The David Collection, Copenhagen / Photographer Pernille Klemp.
For more info about The David Collection, visit davidmus.dk