San Francisco, CA
Journey to three cosmopolitan Islamic empires and explore the personal relationships that fueled artistic creation.
Pearls on a String takes viewers to the Islamic world in the 16th through 18th centuries to consider the question “Who’s behind the art?” The answer comes in the form of three stories, each centered on a protagonist from a different century and empire: the writer in 16th-century Mughal India, the painter in 17th-century Safavid Iran, and the patron in 18th-century Ottoman Turkey. These narratives reveal the significance of both individualism and collaboration in creating extraordinary works of art. They also demonstrate how artists can breathe new life into old ideas to produce work that is innovative but steeped in tradition.
As a backdrop for the three stories, Pearls on a String vividly evokes an early modern world rapidly changing with the global movement of people, ideas and technologies. Through 64 impressive artworks — including manuscripts, paintings, jeweled objects, sculpture, textiles and metalwork — you’ll discover traces of the writer, painter and patron. And you’ll gain a new perspective on how personal relationships can awaken and sustain an artist's creativity, a process that endures in the present day.
Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, Pearls on a String: Art in the Age of Great Islamic Empires presents the arts of historical Islamic cultures by focusing on specific people and relationships among cultural tastemakers, especially painters, calligraphers, poets, and their patrons.