Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West explores romantic Medieval fables from across religious divides
At the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the UAE, a new exhibition takes visitors on an adventure to explore how the culture of knights in the Middle Ages, spanning both Christian Europe and the Islamic lands in the Middle and Near East, actually saw a number of parallels and similarities rather than differences.
The new exhibition includes objects ranging from arms, armour and written and illustrated treatises, to manuscripts and heraldic and decorative objects.
Wael Shawky – The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version
Set to a choir, percussion and maritime-influenced choreography, a new performance by contemporary Egyptian artist Wael Shawky gives some thought to the period of the Crusades from the Arab perspective. The fresh take is part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s robust public programme, which includes a number of auxiliary talks and screenings that accompany the exhibition throughout.
Bowl with Horsemen
For the Islamic world, the Medieval period between 900-1300 CE marked the time of the Crusades, a time in which the Islamic and Christian worlds came into territorial conflict, but also a time in which cross-cultural pollination took place, stretching from Persia, Mesopotamia all the way to Europe. During the Crusades, horsemen became an iconic feature, an example of which can be found on 10th and 11th century ceramics from Nishapur, a city in Eastern Iran.
“THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD WAS A TIME IN WHICH CROSSCULTURAL POLLINATION TOOK PLACE, STRECTHING FROM PERSIA TO EUROPE”
Shirt of Mail of Mamluk Sultan Qāitbāy
A common theme recurring through the exhibition is that of the Mamluks, a group of great political importance that endured for nearly 1,000 years. The group existed from the 9th to the 19th century as a case of warriors that were controlled by Muslim rulers, notably in Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia and even as far away as India.
The ornately decorated Mamluk shirt belonging to Sultan Qāitbāy, who controlled Alexandria during the 15th century and was responsible for defending the city from the Crusaders, shows the warrior fashion of the day. Made from steel, iron, copper alloy and gold, the gilded look became a distinctive style among both Christian and Islamic civilisations.
Plaque: Knight Riding at Full Speed
Bigger isn’t necessarily always better, as we see in a gold and copper alloy warrior figure attributed to a British craftsperson from the 13th century. With the Crusader flag of Saint George’s Cross proudly draped across the body of the horse, the plaque depicts a knight galloping towards conflict sword in hand.
Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is on view until May 30, 2020 at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 18 – 23.