Even a quick glance around any museum installation of Islamic art, or a peak inside a related storeroom, would reveal a preponderance of vessels of all shapes and sizes, representing a variety of media and all manner of decoration. Within the field of the history of Islamic art, our usual taxonomic ordering of these objects most often tends towards classification by date, dynasty, place, medium, and decoration. Surprisingly, although it is frequently the very first question that the museum visitor asks, we do not always focus our attention on what substances these diverse vessels were meant to hold, and how, if at all, their intended contents and use dictated their ultimate appearance. For the purpose of this conference and given the fact that providing water, whether for drinking or for washing, was a basic precept of hospitality within the Islamic world, this paper will delineate some of the ways in which we can identify and classify water vessels, and the extent to which their function might transcend or be restricted by such distinctions as time, place, material, and decoration.
Biography / Bibliography
A specialist in Islamic art, with a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, Linda Komaroff has been at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art since 1995. She is curator of Islamic art and department head, Art of the Middle East. Her exhibitions at LACMA include Letters in Gold: Ottoman Calligraphy from the Sakıp Sabancı Collection, Istanbul (1999), and The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353 (2003). Her publications and scholarly interests have focused primarily on the Iranian world. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including two Fulbright fellowships, while the Legacy of Genghis Khan exhibition catalogue was awarded the prestigious Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award from the College Art Association. In 2003 she received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Award. She has taught at Hamilton College, New York University, Princeton University, and UCLA. At present, she is working on a major international loan exhibition—Gifts of the Sultans: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts.
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