Imagining the Divine: A Preview of the Ashmolean Museum’s Blockbuster Exhibit

No Comments | November 2017

Coming up in the next edition

Since 1683, the Ashmolean Museum has been the University of Oxford’s museum for art and archaeology. The Review of Religions was granted exclusive access to the pre-opening of the Ashmolean Museum’s new blockbuster exhibition entitled: ‘Imagining the Divine’. This exhibition explores how the world’s major religions – Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam – have developed religious iconography, or in some cases such as Islam, strictly avoided iconography. Here we present a snap preview of some of the incredible objects on display. Don’t miss out on next month’s edition for our in-depth look at the exhbition – including interviews and insights from the curators, along with more details on the exhibits themselves.
Rizwan Safir, London, UK


Bowl with Kufic Script:

Squarish Kufic script was a popular form of calligraphy in the early centuries of Islam. The lack of figural representation in Islam led artists to develop other forms of visual expression. Architecture and calligraphy were two such forms of expressions which were greatly developed by Muslims.

Hinton St Mary Roundel:

Found in Britain, this is perhaps the oldest surviving image of Christ; surely the oldest in Britain. Early Christians would have strongly resisted depictions of Jesusas, yet the influence of Roman pagan traditions and iconography is apparent in this scene. Jesusas is shown in a Roman style portrait with the ‘chi rho’ symbol behind him, the name for Christ in Greek.

Footprints of the Buddha:

For 300 years after the arrival of Buddhaas, there is no image of him. The typical image of the seated Buddha seen in statues across the world did not exist – only representations of his hands or feet. Buddhist historians are unable to determine why there is no image of Buddhaas for the first three centuries.

Hajj Pilgrimage Certificate:

This scroll from over 500 years ago was an attestation of the pilgrimage or Hajj, given to a woman named Maymunah following her completion of the annual ritual in Makkah. This example includes calligraphic bands carrying quotations from the Holy Qur’an, as well as the Ka’bah, the hill at al-Marwah and the Prophet Muhammad’ssa tomb in Madinah (although the latter is not part of the Hajj).

These are just some of the incredible objects from the exhibition which will be explored in greater depth in the next edition. The exhibition was born out of the ‘Empires of Faith’ research project – a collaboration between Oxford University and the British Museum. The project has undertaken in-depth archaeological research into the 5 major religions of the world and will be publishing a series of articles and books in the coming year.

http://www.ashmolean.org/imaginingthedivine

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