Date :Saturday, September 15th, 2018 | Time : 07:28 |ID: 70886 | Print

Paintings about Muharram in the World’s Museums

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SHAFAQNA:  The current paintings from different museums, display the important month of Muharram, and also its 10th day known as “Ashura Day” which is remembered by Muslims (Shia) community, as the day on which Hussein Ibn Ali was martyred in the battle of Karbala.


Title:  Commemoration of Muharram

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Artist: unknown, Indian

Date: Early to mid- 19th century

Medium: Opaque watercolor on mica
Description: In the late eighteenth century, Bengali artists began producing sets of paintings on thin, flexible sheets of mica for the burgeoning colonial tourist market. Local festivals were an especially popular subject, as this painting illustrates. The commemoration of Muharram is a month-long period of mourning for the Prophet Muhammad’s martyred grandson, Hossein Ibn ‘Ali (as). By representing impassioned ritual events in such a quaint manner and on such a small scale, artists may have been trying to make Bengal’s unfamiliar cultural terrain more palatable for European patrons.

Abbas Al-Musavi. Battle of Karbala, late 19th-early 20th century. Oil on canvas, 68 1/2 × 133 in., 104 lb. (174 × 337.8 cm, 47.17kg). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of K. Thomas Elghanayan in honor of Nourollah Elghanayan, 2002.6

Title: Battle of Karbala

Brooklyn Museum

Artist: Abbas Al-Musavi

Description: This painting commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (as), the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and the third imam, or leader, of the Shia Muslims. Hossein (as) was killed by the forces of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I (r. 680–683) in the desert of Karbala in central Iraq in 680 c.e. Imam Hossein led a resistance against what the Shia Muslims believed was the Umayyads’ illegitimate rule. The focus of this painting is Hossein’s half brother, Abbas, mounted on a white horse as he stabs a member of Yazid’s army. Individual episodes related to the agonies suffered by Hossein (as) and his companions leading up to and during the battle are illustrated in smaller-scale vignettes on the left. The hereafter is shown at the right, with Hossein (as) and his companions in heaven above and their opponents in hell below.

Title:  Who is this Hossein the world is crazy about?

The British Museum

Artist: Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi

Description: Linocut print on linen. Made in the style of ‘pardeh’ (Persian for ‘curtain’) or ‘coffeehouse’ paintings depicting scenes from the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala (in modern central Iraq) in 680 AD. While most extant paintings date to the late 19th-early 20th century and were executed with oil paints on canvas, this modern work departs from tradition through the use of the linocut technique and Zenderoudi’s unconventional interpretation of commonly depicted scenes.

An inscription in Persian along the border of the work repeats, ‘Who is this Hossein the world is crazy about?’ until it reaches the bottom of the frame, where the inscription ends with, ‘Who is this flame (candle), for which all souls are moths?’ The artist’s signature is written from right to left in an upward direction in a vertical panel at lower left, just within the inscriptional frame.

Title: The Muharram procession

Victoria and Albert Museum

Object: Painting

Place of origin: Murshidabad (possibly , made)
Calcutta (possibly , made)

Date: ca. 1795 – ca. 1805 (painted)

Artist: Unknown

Materials and Techniques: Opaque watercolour on paper


Title: The Sky Fell Down

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMCA) 

Description: a painting depicting the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) in the Ashura event

Artist: Hassan Ruholamin

Title: The Evening of Ashura

Museum of Astan Quds Razavi

Place of origin: Iran

Artist: Mahmoud Farshchian

Description: The central image shows six women in dark blue chadors centred around a white horse; four of the women are clinging on to the horse in despair and the other two are on the ground comforting each other. The horse has a green cloth draped over its back and an empty sword hilt and quiver attached. It has bleeding wounds on its neck and hind leg. On the ground is a discarded brown sandal, a brown saddle and three arrows. In the background on the left are two palm trees and on the right is a white tent. The central image is surrounded by a white border.

Title: A Muharram Procession

The British Museum

Production place: Iran

Description: Painting (watercolour). Five boys grouped around a standard draped with green and red cloth and red and white feathers around an `alam. Two yellow hands of Fatima and a vertical spike arrayed along the horizontal band of the standard. The boys wear skull-caps and three have opened their shirts to beat their breasts. All wear white shoes.

Title: Muharram scene

Victoria and Albert Museum

Place of origin: Patna

Date: ca. 1807 (painted)

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Materials and Techniques: Painted in opaque watercolour on paper

Description: This one depicts part of the Muharram ceremonies, which Muslims carry out in memory of Imam Hasan and Imam Hossein, grandsons of the Prophet Muhammed. Shia Muslims regard them as his successors in the caliphate. The bamboo and paper models being carried aloft represent the tombs of Hassan (as) and Hossein (as).


Read more from Shafaqna:

Muharram in “Coffee House” Paintings

Unity in Diversity– Reflections on Styles in Islamic Art

Islamic Art on display in the UK

Geometry in Islamic Art

Sotheby’s Auctions Islamic Art Pieces, Rare Qurans

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