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Monday, September 25, 2023

One of the oldest Quran in the world will be presented in Paris

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In November of this year, two exhibitions dedicated to Uzbekistan will open in Paris. The first exhibition, «Treasures of the Oases of Uzbekistan. At the Crossroads of Caravan Routes», will be held at the Louvre from November 23, 2022 to March 6, 2023. The second exhibition, «On the Road to Samarkand. Colors and Splendors of Uzbekistan», will be held at the Arab World Institute from November 23, 2022 to June 4, 2023.

The exhibition «Treasures of the Oases of Uzbekistan. At the Crossroads of Caravan Routes» at the Louvre will tell about the history of the Silk Road, which passed through the southern part of present-day Uzbekistan. It will present objects of monumental and easel art, wall paintings, carved details of palaces, and arts and crafts objects. The exhibition will feature 168 museum exhibits, including 137 items from 13 museums of the Republic of Uzbekistan, covering the period from the 5th-6th century BC to the Timurid era, as well as 31 exhibits from the world’s leading museums: Cabinet des Médailles and the National Library of France (Paris), the British Museum, the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Guimet Museum and the Louvre Museum (Paris), the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA), the University Library for Languages and Civilisations Studies (BULAC) (Paris), and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon).

The exhibition «On the Road to Samarkand. Colors and Splendors of Uzbekistan» at the Arab World Institute will present more than 300 exhibits from 9 museums of the Republic of Uzbekistan. It will include collections of textile, costume, foot and headwear, jewelry of the late 19th – mid-20th centuries, gold-embroidered chapans from the Bukhara Emirate period, as well as paintings of the Turkestan avant-garde from the collections of state museums of Uzbekistan. As part of the exhibitions at the Louvre and the Arab World Institute, research catalogs with articles by international and local experts will be published.

Over the past three years, careful preparatory work for the exhibitions has been carried out. A number of joint Uzbek-French expeditions led to many archaeological discoveries. Furthermore, restorers from the Louvre together with specialists from our country conducted large-scale restoration work over several stages, whilst the restoration of some exhibits is still going to this day.

Among the restored items, a charred wooden panel of the VI-VII centuries from the settlement of Kafir-kala (Samarkand) stands out. The front parts were cleaned and restored, and seven parts were attached to the panel. Another restoration process was carried out to the raw clay “Garland Bearer” Buddha statue (1st century BC and 1st century AD) – the surface was cleaned, and the damaged parts were consolidated.

Among the exhibits, each of which is unique, the Kattalangar Qur’an of the VIII century stands out — one of the most important manuscripts of the Islamic world. The Qur’an of Kattalangar has enormous religious significance for Islam and Muslims and belongs to those values that make up the cultural and historical heritage of all mankind.

For a long time, the Koran was kept in the Langar-ota mosque in the Kamashinsky district of Kashkadarya region. In the Islamic world, it is considered to be one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Mushaf.

At the invitation of the Foundation, the restoration of this sacred artifact was carried out by the restorers of the Louvre Museum, Axel Delau and Aurelia Streri. Among local specialists who took part in the work are Komoliddin Makhkamov, the head of the library of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, Shukhrat Pulatov, the chief specialist of the department for restoration of information and library resources of the National Library named after A. Navoi, and Saidrakhmat Ikramov, the leading specialist of the library of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan.

In this way, throughout the process of restoration, the Foundation created conditions for interaction and knowledge exchange between local specialists and leading international experts in this field.

«We are happy to be working on this unique project together with the Foundation. Excavations in Bukhara began back in 2009, and the idea of the exhibition was born in 2017, when we first thought about the possibility of showcasing the heritage of Uzbekistan in the largest museum in the world. Cooperation with the Foundation was confirmed by the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation during the official visit of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Paris in December 2018. Currently, we are at the last stage of the preparation, getting the exhibits ready for transportation. We are developing scenography and immersive space depicting the main sights of Samarkand and Varaksha. Furthermore, we are finishing work on the printed catalog of the exhibition», – Yannick Lintz, director of the Islamic Arts Department at the Louvre Museum and the exhibition’s curator.

«The exhibition at the Louvre will feature masterpieces from the collections of museums in Uzbekistan ranging from the pre-Islamic period to the Timurid era. It is especially important that we managed to include the Quran Katta Langar in the list of exhibits, two pages of which will be presented at the exhibition. The visitors will be able to see the unique calligraphy and miniatures, as well as the Quran displayed in a specially designed exhibition case.

Furthermore, the exhibition will feature twelve miniatures telling the history of the Emirate of Bukhara. As part of the exhibition, for the first time we will also present a copy of the XIV century book of Marco Polo, that includes stories about his travels across Asia at the end of the XIII century. This exhibit will be provided by the National Library of France.

I want to emphasize that the preparation of the exhibition is a well-coordinated work carried out by specialists from both sides. A particularly important matter for us is transportation: a group of restorers from the Louvre Museum carefully examined each item for its readiness for transportation. The Louvre has many years of experience in transporting exhibits from various parts of the world. I am confident that this exhibition will reveal the rich history of Uzbekistan to the international community in a new way», – Rocco Rante, archaeologist at the Louvre Museum and the exhibition’s curator.

«This event is significant for both Uzbekistan and France. The Paris exhibitions will present remarkable treasures of Uzbekistan. At the Louvre, a story of the past will be told through unique exhibits, whilst at the Arab World Institute we will focus on the period between the XIX and XX centuries. We intend to show to the visitors the magnificent chapans and exquisite embroideries reminiscent of late artifacts from the Indian Taj Mahal. Our main exhibits are chapans from the Bukhara Emirate period, jewelry from Khorezm and Karakalpakstan, as well as men’s and women’s silk chapans of an absolutely stunning color palette.

The exhibition will include paintings from the Savitsky Art Museum, in which you can distinguish the special color and light component of Uzbek art, the sun of Uzbekistan. The museum’s collection includes bright avant-garde paintings by Orientalist artists. We would like to convey this sensation of light and brightness to the visitors. We aimed to design the exhibition in such a way as to completely immerse the visitors in a historical atmosphere – with chapans, antique jewelry and carpets. The exhibition will recount the life of the highest court nobility of Bukhara, showing how important all these precious artifacts were for people. We hope that for every visitor this exhibition will be an opportunity to virtually visit Uzbekistan», – Yaffa Assouline, general curator of the exhibition at the Arab World Institute.

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