Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts

November 08, 2015–January 31, 2016

The first international loan exhibition of Islamic art to foreground stories about people, Pearls on a String emphasizes the role of human relationships in inspiring and sustaining artistic creativity. This exhibition comprises more than a hundred works in all media from a geographic area that spans the Bay of Bengal to the Mediterranean. The works on view date from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century: a period marked by the global movement of ideas and technologies and increased interaction among cultural and religious communities.

Pearls on a String pivots around three protagonists who embodied the spirit of their time and realized their patron’s ambitions through individual initiative and a network of personal relationships. In all three episodes, the patron confronts alternative literary and religious traditions along with new technologies and modes of artistic expression. Each protagonist offers his patron a creative means of incorporation and synthesis, embracing an ever-changing early modern world through the written word, painted image, and ingeniously engineered object.

The exhibition was organized by the Walters Art Museum in partnership with the Asian Art Museum, and will be on view at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco February 26 through May 8, 2016. The Pearls on a String exhibition and related programming have been generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating Fifty Years of Excellence; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Gary Vikan Exhibition Endowment Fund; Ellen and Edward Bernard; Douglas and Tsognie Hamilton; the Herb Silverman Fund; and anonymous donors. Select programs were also made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or the Maryland Humanities Council. The free admission to the Walters Art Museum is made possible by the combined generosity of individual members, friends and benefactors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council.