Fabulous Things: Islamic Ceramics in the Eskenazi Museum of Art
The late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century heyday of Islamic art collecting saw thousands of medieval ceramics dug out of the ground and entered into the rapidly globalizing art market. These pieces moved within a largely unregulated international network of diggers, dealers, brokers, and collectors who exchanged and amassed objects that were fabulous—sometimes in every sense of the word. Centering on the previously unpublished collection of pre-modern Islamic ceramics held in the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University Bloomington, Fabulous Things is the first book-length study of Islamic ceramics that places full focus on the skills of the unknown craftsmen who doctored objects for the art market. Using technical analysis and archival research, it exposes the role of the colonial-era market in shaping not only the canon of Islamic ceramics, but also the physical bodies of its subjects—revealing many of them as commodities made anew by modern capitalism, and avatars of the colonial subject.
Margaret Graves is Associate Professor of Art History at IU Bloomington. A specialist in the arts of the Islamic world, her recent monograph Arts of Allusion: Object, Ornament, and Architecture in Medieval Islam (Oxford University Press, 2018) won the International Center of Medieval Art’s Annual Book Prize in 2019. Her research has been supported by (amongst others) the British Academy, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom.