Cartwright Hall is home to some of the most fascinating art exhibitions in Yorkshire. Back in February, Bradford witnessed the arrival of the ‘Precious and Rare’ exhibition with Islamic Metalwork from the Courtauld Gallery. Whilst the exhibition was only temporary, the splendid art gallery is home to several other permanent Islamic Artefacts.
Visitors may be surprised to learn that Cartwright Hall has a permanent collection of Islamic Artefacts which include Islamic paintings and photos, calligraphy tools, a Syrian Mosque lamp and many other similar items.
In order to fully appreciate the artefacts, a tour of the gallery can be arranged. The tour includes a walk around the gallery with commentary by a knowledgeable curator, and covers Place Gallery, where the Islamic artefacts are on show. For those of you who are interested in a brief virtual tour, keep reading for our first artwork.
Within the Place Gallery, visitors will find a painting of an Arab Weaver. Painted by Armand Point in 1886 whilst he was only 25 years old, the oil painting portrays a handloom weaver working in a private courtyard. This is something Armand used to witness on a daily basis in his home town, Algiers. The Arabic calligraphic decorations around the frame read, ‘Only he shall tend to God’s mosques who believes in God and the Last Day’ [The Holy Qur’an 9:18].
Next we find a rare collection of calligrapher tools which were, and still are used for precision in calligraphy. Whilst the pen case from Iran is from the 20th century, the rest of the tools are all contemporary and have been donated by the Turkish master calligrapher Efdal Uddin Kilic in 2006. These include four Qalams [pens], a bone pen rest and a knife.
Further on, we find the Syrian Mosque lamp. Long before the invention of lightbulbs, lamps designed with calligraphy and enamel colours were utilised within the Mosques of Syria. Enamel is a decorative glass-like substance that is melted onto clay, metal, or glass objects, and then left to cool and become hard. Made to an ancient design, this Mosque lamp was decorated by one of the last surviving enamellers in Syria.
Last but not least, Place Gallery also protects samples of calligraphic works and a number of professional Islamic photos taken by Peter Sanders. Known as the photographer of the Muslim world, Sanders has worked tirelessly for over 50 years photographing Muslims, Mosques and the Islamic Culture from around the world. His first photo, named ‘The Mystery of The Ka’bah’, shows us the door of the Ka’bah, also known as the House of Allah, which is the sacred stone structure in Makkah which all Muslims pray towards.
Sanders was one of the very few photographers that had access to professionally photograph the Ka’bah, which makes his collection at the gallery a unique find.
His second photograph shows some of the pillars within the Court of the Lions in the Alhambra Palace in Granada. The Alhambra Palace is one of the finest pieces of Islamic art, and Sanders did not fail to capture a glimpse of that through his photo.
Visitors will also find a sample of calligraphy from Lucknow by Mohammed Al Tayyar. Dating back to 1911, it splendidly demonstrates the balance and precision of the art of Arabic calligraphy.
Samples such as this can be found in countries other than India, such as China, Japan and north-west Europe.
Another great piece of calligraphy within the Place Gallery by Efdaluddin Kilic  reads a line of prayer in Arabic, which can be translated as:
‘My Lord, grant me ease, do not make it difficult and enable me to complete it in the best of fashion’.
It was and still is a practise amongst students of calligraphy that their weekly lessons start with this very line of prayer.
Kilic’s second calligraphy sample, also found within the gallery includes particular styles of writing called thuluth and naskh. This particular sample portrays a verse of the Qur’an which translates as:
‘And indeed, you are of a great moral character’ [68:4]
Entry to the gallery is free. Visitors interested in arranging a tour of the gallery should pre-book this by emailing email@example.com or call 01274 431212.
At the moment, as the UK is on lockdown, the gallery is closed until further notice. We pray and hope that we pass this pandemic period as soon as possible. For now, take care and stay positive!