Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
edited by Maryam D. Ekhtiar, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Najat Haidar
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 431 pp., $65.00; $45.00 (paper) (distributed by Yale University Press)
Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan
an exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City, October 21, 2011–January 29, 2012
Unlike the no less challenging civilizations of East and South Asia, the world of Islam suffers from having been a charged opposite to the West. Ever since the seventh century CE, when Muslim armies first spread with baffling ease across the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East, Islamic civilization has been viewed, in Europe and in America, as shot through with an eerie sense of grandeur tinged with menace. The threat posed by Muslim powers on the frontiers of Europe was sharpened by the feeling that Islam itself was not entirely alien. It was seen as a mutation from the common stock of Judaism and Christianity that was all the more disturbing because the family resemblance between the three religions had not been entirely effaced. This attitude has persisted into modern times.