On view until 30 May virtually at Louvre Abu Dhabi and in keeping with the museum’s current cultural season of Changing Societies, an exhibition entitled Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is showcasing an immersive presentation of medieval objects from the Islamic and Christian cultures. Spanning over 130 artefacts such as medieval armours and illuminated manuscripts, the exhibition pays homage to the medieval knights and their values of loyalty, faith, honour and courage.
“These values were shared by both the social groups in the West and in the East,” says Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi. “The artworks [at the exhibition] illustrate the groups’ common goals and interests [such as] the art of hunting, the art of falconry, games such as polo and chess.”
Horse and Knight Armour. Turkey, 16th–17th century; Steel, iron, textile; Sword of a duke of Milan. Italy, Milan, second half of 15th century. Iron, gilt steel, horn
The artefacts, spread across three different sections, reflect on the early 11th to 16th centuries and are sourced from around the Middle East including Egypt and Syria, to the French and Germanic states in Europe. “The art of elite horsemen, called Furusiyya in the East and chivalry in the West, was born around the 8th to 9th centuries, drawing from several common sources,” say the curators of the exhibition, Dr. Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, Dr. Carine Juvin and Michel Huynh.
“The two cultures forged multiple links throughout the Middle Ages, many of which are still unknown today. Today, it is not only the objects related to battle, but also the values and ambitions, the substitutes and activities beyond the field of combat, the epics, novels and poems, combining stories of prowess and love, which are fascinating to compare. This show will not hide differences, but rather observe encounters between these two different cultures.”
Steel damascened with silver and traces of gold, iron
Upon entrance is Horse Armour from the late 15th century adjacent to Horse and Knight Armour from the first quarter of the 16th century. Other highlights of the exhibition include Treatise on Combat from the late 15th century and Helmet (c. 1450–1500).
Housed within the second section of the exhibition are objects highlighting the different approaches to the art of battle. Here visitors will encounter battle helmets and knightly armour from the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Europe, as well as illuminated manuscripts. “Our home city has always been a gateway between East and West and is a natural stage for this exploration of a key moment in Arab history and its cross-cultural exchanges with the Western World,” says Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Helmet, Turkey or Caucasus, c. 1450–1500
The last section of the show highlights the similarities between knightly culture in Western and Islamic worlds. The exhibition shines a light on the past, highlighting to visitors the common chivalric traditions and values embraced by different societies overtime. “The magic of Changing Societies is really related to how the artists or the craftsmen were looking at the time of that period,” expresses Dr. Souraya. “Their focus on chivalrous culture through literature, music and art are all related to the evolution and the mutation of medieval societies. The tradition and values of furusiyya are still very much alive and related to our background and sensibility.”
Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is on show virtually at Louvre Abu Dhabi until 30 May 2020. Click here to view the exhibition
All images courtesy of Louvre Abu Dhabi and Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi
From the spring 2020 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Art