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Museum of Islamic Art

Islamic Art and Culture from Spain to India

The Museum of Islamic Art presents the art and archaeology of Muslim societies ranging from the 8th to the 19th century. The works of art come from a region stretching from Spain to India. The focus of the collection is on the art and cultural history of the Near East including Egypt and Iran.

Presentation in the Buildings

North Wing of the Pergamonmuseum

In the future, the Museum of Islamic Art will be presented on both exhibition levels in the north wing of the Pergamonmuseum. As part of the Ancient Architectures Tour the Mschatta façade will be on exhibit on the main level. It is currently on display on the upper floor of the south wing, as is the entire collection of Islamic art.

Historical Presentation

When the Museum of Islamic Art was founded, it was first housed in the Bode-Museum. In 1927, it was decided to move it to the Pergamonmuseum. This was due to two reasons: on the one hand, the presentation of the Mschatta façade in the Bode-Museum was far from optimal. On the other hand, the idea was to show that Islamic art and culture are directly founded on cultures of antiquity and the ancient Near East, geographically and in terms of cultural history.

Selected Highlights of the Museum of Islamic Art

Highlights of the Museum of Islamic Art
The Alhambra Cupola (photograph)
© Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Friedrich

The Alhambra Cupola

The Alhambra Cupola, a wooden ceiling carved from cedar and cottonwood and partly painted, was created in the early 14th century. It was originally part of one of the oldest garden palaces of the famous Alhambra in Granada, the Palacio del Partal. The cupola came to Germany in 1891 as a gift from the city of Granada, and became property of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) in 1978. Featuring the typical star patterns and the often quoted motto of Spain’s last Islamic dynasty – “There is no victor but God” – the cupola evokes a splendid epoch. Just as today, the Alhambra Cupola will be the unique “firmament” of the Spanish cabinet in the Museum of Islamic Art in the future.

Eagle Aquamanile (photograph)
© Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jürgen Liepe

Eagle Aquamanile

Created around AD 800 in Iraq, the water vessel in the shape of a bird of prey is a rarity. The handle has the shape of an animal supported by a dolphin. The swirling suns, which were originally damascened with silver, the delicate pattern and the lively posture of the bird’s head lend particular sophistication to this work of art. None of the often described automatic devices used, for example, at the court of the “fairytale” caliph Harun al-Rashid, has survived. Only this bronze vessel gives a visual idea of the furnishings at court. In the future, the vessel will be on display in the First Empires Hall preceding the Mschatta façade, in the context of the arts and palace cities of late antiquity and early 8th/9th-century Islam.

Aleppo Room (photograph)
© Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Georg Niedermeiser

Aleppo Room

In the Aleppo Room, visitors can marvel at the complete paneling of a wall from a house in the historic center of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It is the oldest surviving wall paneling from the territory of the Ottoman Empire. The woodwork was commissioned by a Christian merchant around AD 1600. It gives a vivid impression of the manner in which rooms were formerly designed in Arab countries, Turkey, and northern Iran. The room was decorated with Arabic and Persian verses and aphorisms. The delicate paintings show diverse motifs: people, animals, mythical creatures, plants, and ornaments. In addition, there are depictions of Biblical scenes, Christian saints, and Muslim mystics. The vibrant colors have been restored and are excellently preserved.

Mschatta Façade (visualization)
© SPK / ART+COM, 2016

Mschatta Façade

When the desert palace of Mschatta was built in the vicinity of today’s Jordanian capital in AD 743/744, the era of antiquity had already passed into history. Its lavishly decorated façade, which measures 35 meters in length, came to Berlin as a gift from Sultan Abdulhamid II to Emperor Wilhelm II. Its figural motifs forge a link between late antiquity and early Islam. Embodying this dialogue, the façade will be both the programmatic final exhibit and a highlight of the Ancient Architectures Tour. It is currently on exhibit on the upper floor of the south wing of the Pergamonmuseum. In the future, it will be shown on the same level as the other monumental architectural objects.

Entrances to the Museum of Islamic Art and the Archaeological Promenade (visualization)
© SPK / ART+COM, 2015

Entrances

In the north wing of the Pergamonmuseum, the Collection of Islamic Art will be shown on both exhibition levels. The Museum of Islamic Art will become part of the Ancient Architectures Tour due to the inclusion of the monumental Mschatta façade in the tour. The public will be able to access the collection via the historical entrance of the Pergamonmuseum and the James-Simon-Galerie. In addition, visitors will have direct access to the collection via a separate entrance from the Court of Honor. Beneath the new tempietto entrance, the Museum of Islamic Art will be connected to the Archaeological Promenade.