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Louvre collections: Eastern antiquities and arts of Islam

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Coffer, Fez (Coffer, Fez, XIVth, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coffre-_Fès_14_ème_siècle._Louvre_Paris.jpg)

Louvre Museum includes various rich collections of works of art from different civilizations, cultures and eras. It includes about 460,000 pieces, without the deposits in other museums that remain on its inventories, and 554,498 with deposits, including about 225,000 graphic works (237,559 worksheets for albums, as of January 1, 2016) and 38,000 exhibited works. For reasons of conservation, it is impossible to show the drawings for more than three consecutive months. The rest of the collections are made up of secondary works or archaeological series.

At the date of the decennial proofing of October 4, 2014, the Louvre included a total of 554,498 works, including deposits:

  • department of Egyptian Antiquities: 66,300;
  • department of Eastern Antiquities: 137,628;
  • departments of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities: 68,362;
  • paint department: 12,660;
  • department of sculptures from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Modern Times: 6,115;
  • department of art objects from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Modern Times: 23,405;
  • department of the Arts of Islam: 15,311;
  • department of Graphic Arts: 122,212;
    • Rothschild collection 86,858;
    • chalcography 14 647.

Eastern antiquities

Shamash, god of justice(Shamash, god of justice, detail of the Hammurabi code, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Code_of_Hammurabi_IMG_1936.JPG)

The department of Eastern antiquities holds objects from a region between present-day India and the Mediterranean Sea (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan …).

The Assyrian museum of the Louvre, founded in 1847 and then attached to the “department of the Antiques”, is the first in the world devoted to Eastern antiquities. At his creation, he exhibited 37 bas-reliefs brought back from Khorsabad by the French consul in Mosul, Paul-Emile Botta. The department of Eastern antiquities itself was created in 1881. Throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century the collections were enriched by excavations carried out by French archaeologists throughout the Near and Middle East, especially at the sites of Khorsabad, Susa, Mari and Ugarit. Acquisitions and donations also complemented the archaeological series of the department. Today, the collections are essentially enlarged by partnership agreements signed with the countries where the sites are searched and which take the form of deposits.

Since the Neolithic era, there have been numerous civilizations in this region, including a political, military and religious administration. It is also the cradle of writing, which makes its appearance towards -3300 in Uruk, in Mesopotamia.

The Louvre Museum has three collections under this department, which are divided into geographical and cultural ensembles:

  • Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assur, Anatolia …);
  • Iran (Susa, Persian Achaemenid Empire);
  • the countries of the Levant (Syro-Palestinian coast, Cyprus).

Among the main works displayed there are the Stele of the Vultures, the statue of the Intendant Ebih-Il, the statue of Prince Gudea, the pendeloque in the shape of a dog from Susa, best example of mastering the techniques of goldsmithing at the end of the 4th millennium BC, the Hammurabi code, the Mesha stele of the ninth century BC, the winged bulls (Lammasu) and the monumental bas-reliefs of the Sargon II palace at Khorsabad, the copper lion from Mari, the archers’ frieze and the Lion’s frieze from the palace of Darius I Susa.

Arts of Islam

Jade powder cornet, Mughal art (Jade powder cornet, Mughal art)

This department, created in August 2003, includes collections from an area between Spain and India dating from the origins of the Islamic civilization (622) until the 19th century.

This department is home to several jewels of Islamic art: the pyramid of al-Mughira, a Spanish ivory box dated 968, the peacock dish, an important Ottoman ceramic, and especially the baptistery of Saint Louis, one of the pieces most famous and most enigmatic of all Islamic art, created by Muhammad ibn al-Zayn at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is also remarkable for the important material from the excavations in Susa (Iran), to which the museum participated.

Since December 2012, the collections are presented in a new space of 3,000 m2 located in the Visconti courtyard, completely redeveloped on this occasion. It replaces the old space of the wing Richelieu, opened in 1993 and three times smaller. This space allows the exhibition of 3,000 works, from collections of the Louvre, but also from the museum of decorative arts.

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