The Courtauld announces UK tour of Islamic metalwork

12 Aug 2019

The Courtauld Gallery is pleased to announce ‘Precious and Rare: Islamic Metalwork from The Courtauld’, a touring exhibition of ten remarkable pieces of Islamic metalwork dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The objects include some of the finest examples of this intricate craft from modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, and will travel to four venues in the UK from September 2019 to January 2021. The Courtauld Gallery’s temporary closure during a major restoration project, known as Courtauld Connects, has created the opportunity for the gallery to share these stunning and precious pieces from its collection with museums around the country. The tour complements major loans that the gallery makes through its Regional Partnership Programme, and this national tour of the collection is in partnership with the Specialist Subject Network for Islamic Art and Material Culture and supported by Art Fund.

The Courtauld Gallery’s small but renowned collection of Islamic metalwork was formed by one of the great Victorian art collectors, Thomas Gambier Parry (1816- 1888), to complement his acquisitions of precious medieval and early Renaissance paintings and decorative arts, with which they are normally displayed. Many of the best pieces in the collection have been on permanent display in The Courtauld Gallery since their bequest in 1966, and only a few pieces have ever been on loan before. The metalwork has been cleaned and conserved for the first time since the bequest was made, over fifty years ago. The most spectacular piece in the collection is the Courtauld Bag, made in Mosul, present-day northern Iraq, for a noble lady of the Persian-Mongol court, around 1300 – 1330. It is recognised as one of the finest pieces of Islamic inlaid metalwork in existence, and is the only surviving object of its kind.

This important and little-known area of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection offers an opportunity for visitors around the country to learn more about a fascinating area of the arts of Islam. Dr. Sussan Babaie, Iranian-American art historian at The Courtauld Institute of Art, best known for her extensive research on Persian and Islamic art and architecture of the early modern period will be giving a talk at each of the partner venues.

Led by Dr. Alexandra Gerstein, The Courtauld Gallery’s curator of sculpture and decorative arts, the touring project will allow museum partners the opportunity to both study and showcase the stories behind these rare works. Dr. Alexandra Gerstein: “We are thrilled to partner with such a range of notable organisations and delighted to provide an opportunity for communities across the country to experience and enjoy some of the most treasured art works from The Courtauld Gallery.” An additional selection of Islamic metalwork from The Courtauld is on display at The National Gallery, along with other decorative arts and paintings.

Tour Dates:

Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro: 27 September 2019 –  12 January 2020

Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford: 25 January –  10 May 2020

The Holburne Museum, Bath: 4 June – 6 September 2020

The History of Science Museum, Oxford: 10 September 2020 – 14 February 2021

Watch a video about the metalworks on tour: