Shades of turquoise and deep blue sing out from the ceramics of the Islamic world, identifying them across borders. Afghan potter Abdul Matin Malekzadah, whose work is on view in the Turquoise Mountain exhibition, describes the blue-green glaze of his bowls as “the color of peace, the color of competence.” As demonstrated in Sky Blue, potters in many workshops have shared these distinctive mineral colors of cobalt blue and copper green, whether as pigments for painting and writing on the clay or as colorants to saturate glazes. The vessels on view span the ninth through the nineteenth century.
Red: Ming Dynasty/Mark Rothko
Created more than five centuries apart, an imperial Chinese porcelain dish and a painting by Mark Rothko—unexpectedly brought together in visual dialogue—reveal the immensity of the color red. The richly layered tonalities of both the porcelain dish and the oil and acrylic painting were achieved in dramatically different ways, but they uncannily echo each other.
Chinese monochrome porcelains are among the greatest achievements in ceramics, and no color is more coveted than the luscious copper-red glaze perfected during the Xuande (1426–35) reign. As seen in this dish, made around 1430, the potters masterfully controlled copper—the most difficult of all glaze colorants—to achieve the color and velvety texture of crushed raspberries. In 1959, Rothko (1903–1970) layered red pigments in daring ways, achieving depth and variations that make his flat canvas seem palpable. In both works, the unstable, subtly shifting hues touch our imagination, reminding us that color not only results from materials and processes but also transcends time and place.
The Art of the Qur’an:
Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
In recognition of one of the world’s extraordinary collections of Qur’ans, the Freer|Sackler is hosting a landmark exhibition, the first of its kind in the United States. Some fifty of the most sumptuous manuscripts from Herat to Istanbul will be featured in The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, opening this fall. Celebrated for their superb calligraphy and lavish illumination, these manuscripts—which range in date from the early eighth to the seventeenth century—are critical to the history of the arts of the book. They were once the prized possessions of Ottoman sultans and the ruling elite, who donated their Qur’ans to various institutions to express their personal piety and secure political power. Each manuscript tells a unique story, which will be explored in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
Now on viewChinamania
Through June 4, 2017
Current exhibitions »
Gone but not forgottenFrom 2002 to the present
Past exhibitions »