February 13, 2017

Emily Neumeier hosts a Podcast Interview with Art of the Qur'an Curators

Exploring the Art of the Qur'an
Episode 297 with Massumeh Farhad & Simon Rettig, hosted by Emily Neumeier

The preeminent position of manuscript painting and poetry at the Ottoman court has been well established by historians, yet the equally important practice of commissioning and collecting sumptuously decorated copies of the Qur’an--the sacred text of Islam--has been less explored. The role of the Qur’an in the artistic culture of the Ottoman world is just one facet of the landmark exhibition The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. The show traces the formal evolution of the Qur’an, especially in terms of calligraphy and manuscript illumination, with over 60 manuscripts and folios spanning a thousand years and created in an area stretching from Egypt to Afghanistan. Besides having an opportunity to appreciate the level of labor and skill invested in producing such high-quality manuscripts, visitors will also be surprised to learn about the mobility of these books, as they were avidly collected, repaired, and donated by members of the Ottoman court to various religious institutions around the empire. In this episode, curators Massumeh Farhad and Simon Rettig sit down with us to reflect both on the reception of the exhibition in the United States, as well as the process of organizing this collaborative venture between the Smithsonian and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul.

Massumeh Farhad is Chief Curator and Curator of Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. She is a specialist in the arts of the book from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Iran, and has curated numerous exhibitions on the arts of the Islamic world at the Freer and Sackler, including Falnama: The Book of Omens (2009-10), and Roads of Arabia: History and Archaeology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2012).

Simon Rettig is Assistant Curator of Islamic art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. He previously worked at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies in Istanbul and the Freie Üniversität in Berlin. Rettig curated the 2014 exhibition Nasta‘liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy at the Freer and Sackler.

Emily Neumeier is ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at The Ohio State University and recently earned her Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns the art and architecture of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. She is co-curator of our series on The Visual Past and editor of the blog stambouline, a site where travel and the Ottoman world meet.