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August 25, 2018January 27, 2019

Islam and the Classical Heritage

From the legendary life and exploits of Alexander the Great (known as Iskandar in the Islamic tradition) to the insights of Islamic mathematicians who first introduced the concept of algebra (al-jabr), this exhibition brings a larger awareness of how authors, philosophers, and scientists of the Islamic world spread and transformed classical knowledge through the medium of illustrated manuscripts. Representing heroes such as Alexander and other historic notables, including Aristotle and Ptolemy, the exhibition features works created in Iran, India, Turkey, Spain, and Italy from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The manuscripts in this exhibition are drawn from the National Library of Israel's special collection.

Image: “Alexander studying with Nichomachus and Aristotle”, folio 12, verso, in Khamsa (Quintet) (detail), by Nizami Ganjavi (1141‒1209). India, 17th century, illustrations possibly later. Copyist unknown; text in Persian. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; 36 x 25.1 x 3.3 cm. From the collections of The National Library of Israel, Ms. Yah. Ar. 1021. Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the National Library of Israel.

Lead Support
The Francis Goldsmith Exhibition Fund

Major Support
Barbro and Bernard Osher