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Allure of the Near East: Treasures from the Huntington Museum of Art’s Touma Collection

Jepson Center August 16, 2013 – January 5, 2014

Showcasing a selection of everyday treasures from the Huntington Museum of Art’s Touma Collection, Allure of the Near East features over 70 objects from a broad geographical area including the Middle East, Turkey, Indian sub-continent, North Africa, and Europe and range in date from the 1st through the early 20th centuries. Various media showcase the region, including metalwork, glass, ceramics, arms and armor, scientific instruments, textiles, furniture, books, and manuscripts. These items represent Pre-Roman, Roman, Greek, Islamic, Christian and Jewish civilizations. Examples include a bust of the goddess Isis from Egypt in the Roman period 10 B.C.—40 A.D., icons from the 18th and 19th centuries, and two brass trays. One tray, made in Syria in the late 19th/early 20th century, depicts the last supper. The other tray, made in Syria, Egypt or Palestine in the 19th century, features symbols of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and scenes from the life of Moses. Both trays were made by Muslims for a Christian and Jewish patron. Other religious examples include two Qur’ans, both made in the early 19th century, one in Iran, the other Kashmir, and a Bible made in Egypt in the mid-19th century. Allure of the Near East also includes many non- religious objects decorated with beautiful designs, from early glass forms to intricately-designed firearms to ceramics that feature both abstract and representational patterns.

This fascinating collection came to the West Virginia museum via Drs. Joseph B. and Omayma Touma. Between 1991 and 2004, the Toumas donated over 400 objects to the Huntington Museum of Art. Originally from Syria, the couple hoped their donation would provide a bridge for people to learn about and appreciate the mostly unfamiliar histories, cultures, and traditions of their homeland, and to promote goodwill and peace in a time of upheaval.

Allure of the Near East comes to Telfair Museums as an exchange. While the Touma Collection is on view at the Jepson Center, the Telfair’s Kahlil Gibran collection will be displayed at the Huntington Museum of Art. This creative exchange allows both museums to diversify their exhibition offerings, while simultaneously providing broader national exposure. 

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RELATED PROGRAMS

Turku – Concert of Near Eastern Music*

August 17, 2013 | 3 pm | Jepson Center

Turku’s high-energy performance will feature the musical traditions of Turkey, Persia, Kurdistan, Caucasus and the Balkans, blending authentic historical songs with traditional improvisational techniques.

Turku – Near Eastern Music Workshop*

August 17, 2013 | 11 am | Jepson Center

In this demonstration and workshop, visitors of all ages can learn about the music and instruments of the near east with members of the band Turku. Reservations required, call 790.8821.

Near East Family Day*

August 17, 2013 | 1-4 pm | Jepson Center

*FREE and open to the public. Project funding from the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs and Georgia Power. 

Lecture by Walter B. Denny

October 10, 2013 | 6 pm | Jepson Center

Walter B. Denny, a renowned scholar on the art of the Islamic world, will speak on works in the Touma Collection of Near Eastern Art. Dr. Denny is a Professor of Art History and Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is also a Senior Consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The lecture is free to members or with museum admission.

Sponsored by the Telfair Academy Guild 

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Qur’an Manuscript; Iran, 1218 AH (1803-1804 A.D.) leather, paper; Overall: 6 5/8 x 4 1/2 x 1 1/4in. (16.8 x 11.4 x 3.2cm); Gift of Drs. Joseph B. and Omayma Touma 2004.3.4