©Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu-Dhabi. Photo by Seeing Things, Ismail Noor

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.

© Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi Photo by Seeing Things - Ismail Noor.
© Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi Photo by Seeing Things – Ismail Noor.

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.

Wael Shawky, The Song of Roland, The Arabic Version. Courtesy of Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Wael Shawky, The Song of Roland, The Arabic Version. Courtesy of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

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.

Bowl with horseman, Eastern Iran, Nishapur, 10th–11th century. Ceramic, slip painted under a colourless glaze. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Art, gift of Mohsen Foroughi, 1962, Photo (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Hughes Dubois.
Bowl with horseman, Eastern Iran, Nishapur, 10th–11th century. Ceramic, slip painted under a colourless glaze. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Art, gift of Mohsen Foroughi, 1962, Photo (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Hughes Dubois.

“THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD WAS A TIME IN WHICH CROSSCULTURAL POLLINATION TOOK PLACE, STRECTHING FROM PERSIA TO EUROPE”

Treatise on Combat, Augsburg, Germany, late 15th century. Ink and wash on paper. Paris, Musée de Cluny, formerly collection of the Princes de Furstenberg, acquisition 2008. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Jean- Gilles Berizzi.
Treatise on Combat, Augsburg, Germany, late 15th century. Ink and wash on paper. Paris, Musée de Cluny, formerly collection of the Princes de Furstenberg, acquisition 2008. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Jean- Gilles Berizzi.

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.

Shirt of mail of Mamluk sultan Qāitbāy, Egypt, 1468–96. Steel, iron, copper alloy, gold. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, purchase, gift of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and Rogers, Acquisitions and Fletcher Funds 2016. Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA.
Shirt of mail of Mamluk sultan Qāitbāy, Egypt, 1468–96. Steel, iron, copper alloy, gold. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, purchase, gift of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and Rogers, Acquisitions and Fletcher Funds 2016. Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA.

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.

Plaque: knight riding at full gallop, Western European, possibly British, c. 1300. Gold and copper alloy. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, Bashford Dean Memorial Collection 1929, inv. 29.158.735. Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA.
Plaque: knight riding at full gallop, Western European, possibly British, c. 1300. Gold and copper alloy. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, Bashford Dean Memorial Collection 1929, inv. 29.158.735. Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA.

 

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.

Dorian Batycka
Dorian Batycka

Dorian Batycka is a Canadian curator, art critic and DJ based in Muscat, Oman. He is currently curator at Bait Muzna for Art Film. Previously, he was assistant curator for the first ever Maldives National Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and has contributed to numerous publications, including Art and Education, Frieze Blog, and Nero. He can be found on Twitter.

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