Elegant calligraphy has been one of the most celebrated forms of Islamic culture since Islam's founding in the seventh century. Over this past summer, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art honored the artistic form with a special showing on the Great Hall Balcony of selected masterpieces from its Islamic Art Department's massive collection.
Overseen by Met curators Navina Haider Haykel and Maryam Ekhtiar, the exhibit showcased the calligraphic art of the Islamic world from Spain to south Asia and beyond. Ranging in date from the 8th to the 19th century, on display were several richly illuminated Qur'anic manuscripts, as well as album pages in a variety of scripts, examples of inlaid metalwork, ceramics, and rare textiles with calligraphic elements. Many calligraphic scripts from early kufic to the later refined nasta'liq were shown in a range of media, demonstrating the impact and importance of this most treasured Islamic art form.
Among the showpieces was a 13th century mosque lamp from Cairo created from free-blown glass with applied enameled, gilded and stained decorations. …