The first blog entry from the treasure trove that is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is for an Islamic shield, 1750-1850, Indian or Iranian, metal inlaid with silver and brass. Here’s the copy on the card with the shield itself:
The animals on this shield are made of words. The four lions are symbols of courage and are protecting the gentle gazelles in the middle. A soldier carried the shield into battle as a symbol of his Islamic faith.
Alongside the shield is an interactive electronic book, which tells the story of the shield in eight pages or so. The following text is found on the last few pages of the interactive book:
To fully appreciate the cultural value of this Islamic shield, and after careful consideration, we have chosen to tell this shield’s story in a visual way by illustrating the lives of the characters represented on it, those of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his cousin Imam Ali.
To aid us with this task we have selected a number of historical miniature paintings that have appeared in Islamic manuscript books such as “Jami’ al-Tawarikh” by Rashid Al-Din, Tabiriz AD 1306; “Siyar-i-Nabi”, Istanbul, AD 1595; the “Khavarnama” by Ibn Husam, Punjab, AD 1686; and “Maktel-i-Ali Resul” by Lami’l Celebi, Turkey, early 17th century AD.
We are very aware of the tension that exists within Islamic cultures today with regards to figurative art in general, and the depiction of Prophet Muhammad and of his family in particular.
Some of this concern stems from theological arguments, but some stems from concern for misrepresentation and disrespectful depictions.
We would like to assure Muslims that in this interactive we are following in the footsteps of respectable Medieval artists and their patrons who set precedence for the Islamic artistic tradition of illustrating the stories of the lives of Prophet Muhammad and his followers.
We have adhered to veiling the face of the Prophet and flames to emphasise his special position in his community.
The aim of this interactive is purely educational to introduce and explain the story of the gazelle and the lion in an accessible way to people who may not know of it.
None of the images that are meant to be a true likeness of any of the characters. They are merely illustrations to inspire and educate their audience.