Connecting the classroom to the Met

Anna '14 participated in a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. 

I saw many amazing pieces in the museum, but seeing pieces from our textbook was the best because I already knew their histories and purposes. I felt like I had a deeper connection with these works of art. So, upon stepping into the Islamic wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was no surprise that the blue cut tiles immediately caught my eye.

 While reading about “The Mihrab” in the Art History textbook, the details about the ceramic used to create this niche had stuck out at me. When I finally saw the turquoise and navy glazed mosaic, I couldn’t help but rush over to the piece. The Mihrab is tucked in the corner, but the bold color makes it a standout. The beautiful tiles have been individually cut and fitted together to create geometric, calligraphic, and arabesque designs. Maybe I am just too used to it, but I could not imagine English ever looking quite as elegant as the Kufic script written around the Mihrab edges. I pictured countless Muslims standing at the niche praying before the Qur'an in Isfahan, Iran. Even though I myself do not practice Islam, the Mihrab made the museum feel like a spiritual place. Suddenly, we all pulled out our phones to ensure that the Mihrab was faced towards Mecca. Traditionally, mihrabs were placed along the qibbla wall of a mosque in the direction of the holy city Mecca. It was an amazing feat for the museum to bring over the entire niche, but if it was placed it in the wrong direction, it would have made the entire display a mockery of religious art. Fortunately and unsurprisingly, the museum succeeded in placing the Mihrab in the correct direction. 

 As I walked away from the niche, I took a quick look back. The textbook had revealed that the geometric patterns were intended to appear as though they could go on forever. This was to represent God in a way that both sums up his/her power, but does not overshadow it. It was in that moment that I truly began to understand this concept. The designs force the viewers eyes to repeatedly trace the tile lines as if they are never ending. Unknowingly, my mind embedded the captivating design into my memory as I moved on to the next piece.