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Study of Muslim Arts: a ‘Western creation’





As Oleg Grabar pointed out, ‘the study of Muslim arts is [...] a western creation of the European nineteenth century.’ We would like to illustrate this by focusing on a few constitutive interpretations of such a ‘creation’, particularly in France, at a time when the first exhibitions, from 1867 onwards, are developing an interest in ‘Eastern art’. The narrative depends on a visual culture calling for a variety of references to the history of Western art, the proximity of which is sought, for example, in the study of Venetian affiliations or in the question of figurative representation, which provokes different debates. The study of the arts of Islam was also based on a certain vision of the East, enriched by contemporary literature and painting, which referred to both the history of the cruads, the Eastern despotism and the Mille and Le Nuits. The limits of these interpretations, which combine proximity and remoteness, do not escape those who, from the end of the 19th century, called for greater participation by Muslim connaisers.

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