Empty returns to the galleries of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

“Imperial Threads: Motifs and Artisans from Turkey, Iran and India”

15.03 – 04.11.2017

This exhibition explores the cultural connections between the Timurid, Safavid, Ottoman and Mughal dynasties, with a particular focus on the carpets and tapestries in the MIA collection as well as pieces on loan from Turkey, Iran and India. These and other objects will be displayed in the context of the historical, political and artistic circumstances of the period, spanning the 16th to the 18th century. Visitors will be able to discover the initial influence of the Timurid empire and its legacy as well as the artistic contacts that developed between the workshops of the Safavid court—mainly during the reign of Shah Tahmasp (Chehel Sotun Palace at Isfahan, Iran), the Ottoman court—under Suleyman the Magnificient (Topkapi Palace in Instanbul)—and the Mughal Empire in India. The exhibition also shows how the patterns created by the different workshops, using geometric, floral and animal motifs, were adopted by countless artisans and artists from other disciplines, from calligraphy and furniture to pottery and jewellery.

The itinerary commences with a large mural map showing the empires and their connections. Meanwhile, a large-format stereoscopic projection features an animation of the characteristic patterns of the different areas, which transition seamlessly from one to another through a morphing effect. A ramp then takes visitors on a retrospective journey through the Safavid, Ottoman and Mughal empires. Explanatory texts and illustrations of the different motifs used in the carpets on display facilitate a greater appreciation of these textile pieces and the other objects included in the exhibition while highlighting the stylistic and technical parallels between them.

With the absolute protagonism given over to carpets, which invade the gallery floors and walls, the exhibition has been designed by Boris Micka and produced by Empty, the third occasion the company has worked at the MIA. It is divided into four sections, one for each empire. The first one focuses on the splendour of the Timurid Empire (late 14th century-early 16th century) and its influence over the other empires through trade and diplomatic relations.