Louvre Museum’s Islamic Artifacts among the Biggest in the World

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The Musée du Louvre is home to more than 35,000 works of art and over 380,000 objects. The museum in Paris city houses these collections in several curatorial departments, housed in separate galleries and exhibit floors, the Department of Islamic Art being one of the most visited ones.

The Islamic artwork collection is something to be admired when on a private Louvre Museum tour. If you are the sort of person who has an affinity for the archeological or mysterious stuff, then this section of the national museum is also one of the must-visit ones. When on peak tourist seasons, there might be a beeline of crowds peering into its galleries. Therefore, it is a good idea to devote your time to select galleries or sections to make the most of your trip.

The Director of History of Louvre Museum’s Islamic art collection, Yannick Litz, said that the section is one of the biggest in the world, with more than 17,000 Islamic artifacts. While there are almost 35,000 artifacts in the former royal palace turned museum, nearly half of its artifacts collection resides in the Islamic art section. The artifacts trace back to the twelfth century era, from the early years of Islam, until the mid-nineteenth century period.

The tile panel, which belongs to Sultan Selim II’s tomb situated in the garden of Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, is another valuable piece exhibited in the Musée du Louvre. The Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture continues its efforts for returning this panel, taken overseas illegitimately a long time ago.

In the year 1905, the national museum for the first time allocated a small section for Islamic artifacts. The number of artworks increased, particularly after the Second World War. Therefore, the museum opened a separate section in 2003 to put on view Islamic art. The erstwhile President of France François Hollande had officially opened the section.

At its Islamic Art Department’s entrance, a section was dedicated to the introduction and exhibition of the old Mosque of Damascus. Further, the İznik tiles and Süleyman the Magnificent’s sword are two of the works that interest those on Louvre Museum tours.

Another remarkable work displayed in this section of the building is a vessel, made way back in the fourteenth century and thought to be from the Egyptian Mamluks. It carries the artist’s half a dozen signatures. It is said that there is no other work the artist signed this way.

One of the Largest Collections

Speaking to an agency, Yannick Litz said that the artifacts were a part of not just Islamic but universal culture.

Litz said, “Interest in Islamic art works became part of French culture in very early periods. Louis XIV were collecting these works”. She added that a distinct department for the Islamic works of art was opened in 2003, but owing to the construction works, its official opening was done several years later in 2012.

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“The Islamic Arts section in the museum is undoubtedly one of the largest collections in the world.” She further said that it played a special role, particularly following acts of terrorism, and showed how Islamic art and Islam was in actuality.

They have got positive responses from the museum visitors, although the footfalls have decreased following the terror attacks in the French capital. “Today, dealing with Islamic art is also dealing with prejudices [against Islam],” said the director of the museum collection.

Among the works of art in this section, her favorite one was an embroidered ivory box, which was made in 968 AD in Andalusia.

Yannick Litz said she has been following closely the matter of the above-mentioned tile panel’s return since the year 2003, and that it should be settled by the presidents of France and Turkey. She said its return could be settled with dialogue between both nations.

“I love Turkey and I want to work with this country. I recommend Turkish authorities to investigate how this panel left Turkey and how it was purchased by the Louvre Museum. This is not a political recommendation but a recommendation by a person who loves Turkey”.

It comes as no surprise, as the Parisian museum takes decisions after taking into consideration several factors. Earlier this year, it turned down a proposal from the Ministry of Culture to loan out the Mona Lisa painting on a tour across France, mainly to ensure visitors get to see it. That is also one of the treasures of the national museum, much like the Islamic artworks.

Of course, you can also explore other Islamic works of art when on a private Louvre Museum tour, besides artifacts. If you are interested in painting art form, there are some notable works too in the Islamic Art Department, like the one titled “Man Reading”.