I recently discovered that the Cleveland Museum of Art is a participant in the Open Access Initiative through which they, along with other major art museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Museum, allow free, unrestricted use of images of many (but not all, particularly more modern pieces) of their collection items. That prompted me to poke around the Cleveland Museum of Art’s online collection of ceramics. It was well worth the effort.
Because I was writing an article on early luster ware bowls, I first searched for ceramics from the Islamic art collection and hit 64 results. I clicked on the first item (a Mihrab from Iran), shown below, and then explored the accompanying material.
Because I know very little about mihrabs, I was pleased to see a lengthy text description of the object, which I’ve displayed to the right.
From the description I learned that mihrabs are prayer niches found inside mosques, located on the wall that faces Mecca.
The description goes on to explain elements of this particular mihrab such as a translation of the text found on tiles.
The image quality of the photography is impressive. The site allows you to zoom into objects.
For this particular item, I found several videos, one describing the function of a mihrab, a second describing the design and decoration of this mihrab (see below), a third discussing Arabic calligraphy, and the fourth discussing Islam in Cleveland.
There is extensive information on inscriptions, provenance, citations, exhibition history, etc. You are able to view and download images of the objects. In this case there weren’t different views, but I did find that when viewing other objects (for example, a view of a bowl from above, the side, and bottom).
I’m just beginning to explore the full scope of the museum’s collection, but I quickly see a variety of work from different ages and regions. I’ll highlight a few below – but I suggest you go online and explore the Cleveland Museum of Art’s online collection yourself.