Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced from the seventh century onward with the beginning of the Islamic empire. It covers a range of artistic fields including architecture, calligraphy, painting, glass, metalwork, ceramics, and textiles. The art was influenced by Greek, Roman, early Christian and Byzantine art styles, as well as the Sassanian art of pre-Islamic Persia. Chinese influences also had a formative effect on Islamic painting, ceramics and textiles. With its geographic spread and long history, Islamic art was inevitably subject to a wide range of regional and national styles. It is all the more remarkable then that, even under these circumstances, Islamic art has always retained its intrinsic quality and unique identity.
The selection of artefacts for this catalogue on masterpieces of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the twentieth century. The objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and as far eastward as Central Asia. Comprising both sacred and secular objects, the selection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices, and the exchange of motifs, such as vegetal ornaments and geometric patterning.