Handwriting is the necklace of wisdom. It serves to sort the pearls of wisdom, to bring its dispersed pieces into good order, to put its stray bits together.—Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi
In his treatise on penmanship, the medieval Arab calligrapher Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi equates the calligrapher’s art of beautiful writing to a jeweler stringing pearls. His analogy reveals a creative engagement with multiple art forms. While calligraphy takes pride of place in Islamic art, the pursuit of beauty informs all works of art, from calligraphy and painting to textiles and architecture.
The objects in this exhibition are arranged into themes inspired by the allegorical thinking of al-Tawhidi. Themes include the intersections between function and decoration; the aesthetic power of everyday objects; visual play, wit, and magic; connections across art forms; and light symbolism and illumination. In addition, the exhibition Pearls of Wisdom aims to showcase the richness and diversity of Islamic art through a range of artworks held in the collections of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.