Although the Morgan is well known for its collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, it also holds important Islamic manuscripts full of extraordinary paintings. Since Islam refers to both the religious faith and civilization of Muslims, this online exhibition includes both religious and secular texts. Just as the Qur˒an is central to Islamic life, it is also the centerpiece of this presentation, followed by manuscript pages that illustrate works of science, biography, history, and poetry. Included are such important manuscripts as the Manāfi˓-i hayavān (The Benefits of Animals)—one of the finest surviving Persian examples—and the richest illustrated life of the beloved poet Rūmī (1207–1273). Also featured are pages from the Mughal and Persian albums that Pierpont Morgan acquired in 1911 from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, and miniatures illustrating the work of great Persian poets.
We are indebted to Barbara Schmitz for the research published in her invaluable 1997 catalogue Islamic and Indian Manuscript Paintings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, which also includes contributions by Pratapaditya Pal, Wheeler M. Thackston, and William M. Voelkle.
This online exhibition was created in association with the exhibition Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan, on view 21 October 2011 through 29 January 2012, organized by William Voelkle, curator and head of the Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. The exhibition is supported in part by a generous grant from the Hagop Kevorkian Fund and by the Janine Luke and Melvin R. Seiden Fund for Exhibitions and Publications.