Jazira - a radiant cultural landscape between the Euphrates and the Tigris

11.11.2006 to 02.09.2007


The Jazira ("island") stretches between the greatest rivers of the Near East, the Euphrates and the Tigris. These originate in eastern Turkey - the Euphrates additionally winding through northeast Syria - cross through Iraq and finally join in the Shatt al-Arab before flowing into the Persian Gulf. This area crossed by the two great rivers is an ancient cultural scene of major influence.

The art and culture of the petty princes of the 12th and 13th centuries form the subject of the publication and the exhibition, which intends to present hitherto unknown masterpieces from the Museum of Islamic Art, from the Oriental Department of the Staatsbibliothek and from the Münzkabinett in Berlin.These are complemented by first rate loans from the David Collection in Copenhagen and the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich.

The medieval dynasties of the Zangids, Artuqids and Ayyubides favored a courtly lifestyle, which notably manifested itself in the establishment of opulent libraries and artistic production in correlation with diverse technical innovations. It is the first time that the amount of figurative representation in objects of art and architectural design reaches such an extent. Artisans were encouraged to study the symbols of the illustrious past and to reutilize them for the glorification of their princly patrons. These were portrayed as noble heroes, the vanquishers of lions and unicorns. Astrological symbols were employed on public buildings and in courtly surroundings alike, reflecting the ruler's supremcy.

All exhibits - about 70 examples, of which many are either unpublished or barely remembered through older works - acquire new dimensions in their historical context. They exemplify one particularly interesting epoch in Islamic culture, which demontrates the exploits of the human spirit and a re-awakening of human innovative and artistic potential. The stimulating environment of the residential cities, with their etnically and religiously heterogeneous populations could not but generate the dawn of a brillant artistic boom.