THE Louvre has opened a new Islamic section under an undulating gold-coloured roof in one of its courtyards.
Visitors can see some 2,600 works of art showing the diversity of the Islamic world in the new facility, whose appearance has been described by its Italian architect as like a “golden sand dune”, a “bedouin tent” or “magic carpet”.
It follows in the tradition of the Louvre pyramid, by contrasting modern architecture with surrounding buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Department of the Arts of Islam has more than 1,000 square metres and is laid out on two levels according to four time periods – the foundation period of the Islamic empire from 632-1,000AD, a period of rupture and recomposition from 1,000-1,250AD, a second flourishing from 1,250-1,500AD and then a period of great Islamic empires in more “modern” times, from 1,500-1,800AD.
Visiting it all takes about an hour-and-a-half.
Highlights include the Pyxide of al-Mughira, a circular box finely carved out of an elephant tusk in Spain in 968; the bronze Lion of Monzón, which was once a fountain mouth and dates from the 7th to 8th centuries; and the Ottoman Wall – a decorative piece 12 metres long.
The displays include maps that light up to show different movements of populations and there are video screens explaining topics like the Mamluks (a military caste) or artistic techniques, plus recordings of languages like Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
Screens for reading Islamic stories are displayed at the end of the tour, and a film explaining the main characteristics of Islam.
The museum project was first planned under the Chirac presidency, built in the Sarkozy period and inaugurated by President Hollande. It replaces a smaller Islamic section that was part of the department of Oriental Antiquities.
The Louvre is open every day apart from Tuesday, 9.00-18.00; tickets €11 for the whole museum, free for under 26s.
Photo: Musée du Louvre/Philippe Ruault