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Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is on show at Louvre Abu Dhabi from 19 February – 30 May 2020, marking the third international exhibition in its 2019/20 cultural season Changing Societies.

We just visited the third international exhibition of the cultural season Changing Societies (2019-2020) at Louvre Abu Dhabi with medieval knights, charging horses and courtly tales from the Islamic East and Christian West displayed side by side at Louvre Abu Dhabi.

In a rare comparative study, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s latest exhibition Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West (19 February – 30 May 2020) displays objects of medieval chivalric culture from the Islamic and Christian worlds. The immersive presentation encompasses over 130 artefacts, from medieval armours, objects related to riding and battle, as well as illuminated manuscripts depicting chivalric scenes. Particular attention is paid to the values of the medieval Knights. Courage, faith, loyalty or honor can thus be seen as the anchor of a common culture, present in both Islamic East and Christian West.


Visiting Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is free with the museum’s general admission ticket. Pre-booking is highly advised due to the peak period.

To book tickets, please visit www.louvreabudhabi.ae or call Louvre Abu Dhabi at +971 600 56 55 66. Admission is free for children under the age of 13.

Presented across three sections, artefacts on show originate from across the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Syria, to the French and Germanic states in Europe, covering the period from the early 11th to the 16th century.

The show allows visitors to discover similarities of knightly traditions in these different parts of the medieval world and spotlight the extraordinary cultural exchanges originating from key meeting points such as Southern Spain, Sicily, and Syria.

In keeping with the theme of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s current cultural season Changing Societies, the exhibition highlights key artworks and artefacts across different times and cultures. The show aims to visualize how historic circumstances have contributed to their production or, in turn, how these works now act as a witness to historic changes in the cultures that produced them.

Horse Armor

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are presented with two monumental horse armours, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s spectacular Ottoman Horse Armour from the late 15th century, installed alongside a European Horse and Knight Armour from the first quarter of the 16th century, on loan from Musée de l’Armée. Both aim to immerse the visitors into the key themes throughout this exhibition – knights and their horse as well as the art of battle and knightly culture.


Visualising the emergence and development of furusiyya in the East and its early encounters with chivalric culture in the West, the first section of the exhibition traces the emergence of this cultural phenomenon back to antiquity. Artefacts such as the cameo from the collections of Bibliothèque Nationale de France depicting the Fight between Emperor Valerian and King Shapur from as early as 260 A.D. are  symbolic for the theme of the exhibition in showcasing the encounter of an Eastern and a Western warrior.


Cameo of Shapur and Valerian Iran, after 260 Carved sardonyx Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Department of Coins, Medals and Antiques, inv. Cameo 360 © Bibliothèque nationale de France

A Horseman’s bowl on loan from Musée du Louvre from ca. 10th or 11th century Iran – one of the earliest depictions of an Islamic horseman – highlight key motifs such as the armed man on horseback, employment by a king as well as ‘knightly’ values such as courage, strength and service.

Bowl with horseman Eastern Iran, Nishapur, 10th–11th century Ceramic, slip painted under a colourless glaze Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Art, gift of Mohsen Foroughi, 1962, Photo (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Hughes Dubois

Plaque: knight riding at full gallop Western European, possibly British, c. 1300 Gold and copper alloy New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, Bashford Dean Memorial Collection 1929, inv. 29.158.735 Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA


The second section of the exhibition allows viewers to discover objects around knightly combats and the art of battle, such as attack and defence armaments and equipment worn by the warrior’s horse. Educational manuscripts on war and fighting techniques were common in both cultures and the juxtaposition of an Arabic Kitāb al-makhzūn jāmiʿ al-funūn (The treasure that combines all arts) from Bibliothèque Nationale de France with a French Combat Treaty from Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen-Age, allow visitors to understand similarities and differences of approaches to fighting and battle.

Kitāb al-makhzūn jāmiʿal-funūn (The Treasure where the Different Arts are assembled) Egypt, 8 July 1470, Ink, pigment and gold on paper Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Arab ms. 2824, fo 27b-28a © Photo (C) Bibliothèque nationale de France

A variety of battle helmets and knightly armour from the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Europe, alongside several depictions of battling warriors in illuminated manuscripts and carved reliefs, contribute to the visitor’s understanding of knightly fashion at war. The Turban Helmet of Sultan Bajazet II from Musée de l’Armée, shown alongside a Western Bascinet from Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen-Age, give an idea of the different modes of defence, adapted to different arms and fighting techniques, across both cultures.

Bascinet with visor, known as Klappvisier France, c. 1390–1430 Iron, leather Paris, Musée de Cluny, on permanent loan from the Musée de l’Armée Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi


Helmet Iraq, Turkey or Caucasus, c. 1450–1500 Steel damascened with silver and traces of gold, iron Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi © Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi / Photo : Thierry Ollivier

Shirt of mail of Mamluk sultan Qāitbāy Egypt, 1468–96 Steel, iron, copper alloy, gold New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arms and Armor Department, purchase, gift of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and Rogers, Acquisitions and Fletcher Funds 2016 Photo (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA

The final section of the exhibition traces the development of a knightly culture and their similarities in the Western and Islamic worlds. From pastimes such as falconry, jousting, horseback parades, to hippology (the study of horses) and chess, objects on show highlight their cultural touchpoints between East and West.

A 14th century Parisian carved Case with Courteous Novel Scenes from Musée du Louvre, showcasing a jousting tournament and other courtly activities, as well as a manuscript from Bibliothèque Nationale de France showing the Delivery of the chess game board by the King of India envoys from 15th century Iran speak about knightly life at the court and further illuminate the different manifestations of chivalric culture between the Middle East and Europe.


Held in partnership with Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen-Age in Paris, and Agence France-Muséums, Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West is curated by Chief Curator Dr. Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, former Director of Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen-Age, alongside Co-Curators Dr. Carine Juvin, Curator of the Department of Islamic Art at Musée du Louvre and Michel Huynh, Head Curator at Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen-Age.

Lenders to the exhibition include Musée de Cluny – Musée National du Moyen-Age, Musée du Louvre, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée de l’Armée, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Musée Jean-Claude Boulard – Carré Plantagenêt, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, The Chester Beatty Library and Furusiyya Art Foundation.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive cultural programme, curated by Ruth MacKenzie, looking at contemporary culture through the lens of medieval traditions and vice versa.

The work of Egyptian contemporary artist Wael Shawky explores the Crusades from the Arab point of view. Interrogating traditional historical narratives, based on Amin Maalouf’s Cabaret Crusadeshis large-scale musical theatre performance La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) is based on a French epic poem from the 11th or 12th century France, glorifying the reign and conquests of Emperor Charlemagne and his nephew Roland. The work is staged by over 20 fidjeri singers and musicians from Sharjah and Bahrain, performing in the traditional style of Arabian Gulf pearl divers.
Performances will take place in the Auditorium on 26 and 27 February at 8pm. Tickets are for 150 AED (including VAT) and are available online.

A full family weekend will plunge visitors in the medieval times, with activations in the Park, under the Dome, film screenings, parades of knights, workshops and much more
(28 and 29 February from 12pm to 6pm).

The renowned Trio Joubran has become eponymous with the oud, or Arabic lute. Coming from a long line of luthiers, the trio innovates in their performance and their instruments come together like three soloists who form one single voice.
Their performance The Long March will be on show at the museum’s Auditorium on 26 March at 8pm. Tickets are for 150 AED (including VAT) and are available online.

Other exhibitions that are a part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 2019/2020 season

  • 10,000 Years of Luxury (30 October 2019 – 18 February 2020)
  • Charlie Chaplin: When Art Met Cinema (15 April 2020 – 11 July 2020).

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