The art of Islam dances with scripts, arabesques, and intricate patterns that unfold like blossoms. Perhaps because of the Koran’s edict against idolatry, many Muslim artists through the ages have invested their energy not in representational work, but in covering ceramics, glass, architecture, and textiles with magnificent designs.

The first thing you notice as you walk through ”Cosmophilia: Islamic Art From the David Collection, Copenhagen,” a spectacle of an exhibition at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, is that magnificence: brilliant color, extraordinary detail, mathematical patterning, and ingenious technique.

The show is a rare opportunity to see exquisite works from the David Collection, a private museum in Denmark. The David Collection, founded in 1945 by Christian Ludvig David , is not specifically an Islamic art museum — European decorative arts are also a strength — but since David’s death in 1960, a succession of directors with deep pockets have cannily grown the Islamic collection, which now amounts to more than 2,000 objects.

This summer, the David Collection has closed for a two-year renovation. Curators and BC professors Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom seized the opportunity to mount this show. ”Cosmophilia” focuses on ornament in Islamic art; they coined the title, which means a love of decoration. They’ve chosen 123 of the David Collection’s finest pieces.

Blair and Bloom have daringly organized the exhibition entirely along visual lines, throwing historical context and geography to the winds. Works made between 600 and 1800 in Muslim cultures stretching from Spain to Northern Africa and India are on view.


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