The Museum of Royal Worcester invites people to see stunning objects and archive material not usually on show in a brand-new display exploring ‘Worcester porcelain and the Arts of Islam: creativity, commerce, and exchange’which opens at the Museum on Saturday 10th October.
Sophie Heath, Museum Director, explains “Worcester porcelain borrowed design inspiration from all over the world to keep up with the tastes of its customers. This started with China and Japan in the 18th century but the industry also looked to the arts and cultural traditions of the Islamic worlds of the Middle East and India in the 19th and 20th centuries influencing some of their most elaborate and high status objects. In 2019 we achieved project funding to enable an expert in the arts and design of Islam to spend time looking at our collections and archives that bear Arabic calligraphy and borrow patterns and shapes from these cultural traditions. We’re delighted to be now sharing what we’ve learned about Worcester porcelain’s global connections in this new display.”
Cathedral Ward, Worcester City Councillor, Jabba Riaz says “The Museum is interested in hearing from our local communities about what these objects mean to them and invite people to visit and get involved, ask questions and take part in person and online to find out more. It’s a really beautiful project which highlights the journey of Royal Worcester into the Middle East and Asia and how Islamic art calligraphy and geometry influenced many of the designs at the time”
The project was enabled by the West Midlands Museum Development ‘Expert Eye’ programme and the Islamic Art and Culture Subject Specialist Network, both supported by Arts Council England. Fuchsia Hart, a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford (and former researcher for the V&A’s upcoming Iran exhibition) spent time looking at the Museum’s ceramic collections and rich factory archive. She translated inscriptions on items commissioned for Muslim rulers, ranging from an 1820 pink breakfast service plate created by Chamberlains for Azam Jah, Nawab of the Carnatic in India, to late 20th century, richly gilded dinner services for leaders of the Gulf states.
An exciting discovery was rare books in the Museum’s Design Library that show the factories were collecting early publications illustrating the art and design of Islam for European audiences – enabling factory artists to incorporate these influences into Worcester porcelain and appeal to the fashionable Victorian taste for the exotic. The project has enabled Museum staff and volunteers to gain a much better understanding of the political and social context in which these items were created, and to improve collections records – capturing this knowledge for the future.
The ‘Worcester Porcelain and the Arts of Islam: creativity, commerce and exchange’ display in the Museum’s 20th century gallery continues to March 2021. For more details visit the website here.