"...the Imagination (or love, or sympathy, or any other sentiment) induces knowledge, and knowledge of an 'object' which is proper to it..."
Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was a scholar, philosopher and theologian. He was a champion of the transformative power of the Imagination and of the transcendent reality of the individual in a world threatened by totalitarianisms of all kinds. One of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Corbin was Professor of Islam & Islamic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Teheran. He was a major figure at the Eranos Conferences in Switzerland. He introduced the concept of the mundus imaginalis into contemporary thought. His work has provided a foundation for archetypal psychology as developed by James Hillman and influenced countless poets and artists worldwide. But Corbin’s central project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His great work Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi is a classic initiatory text of visionary spirituality that transcends the tragic divisions among the three great monotheisms. Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. His work marks a watershed in our understanding of the religions of the West and makes a profound contribution to the study of the place of the imagination in human life.
A globally renowned collection of Islamic art is on view at De Nieuwe Kerk (Dam, International Exhibition Centre, Gravenstraat 17; 31-20-626-8168;www.nieuwekerk.nl) through April 17. Assembled by Prof. Nasser D. Khalili, a well-known scholar and benefactor, it includes over 500 objects, among them illuminated Korans and manuscripts, paintings, gold, jewels, textiles, ceramics, glassware, lacquerware, metalwork and wood carvings.
“The exhibit shows that Islamic art is a masterly expression not of a single national culture or civilization,” said Vincent Boele, curator of exhibitions for the museum, “but of many peoples joined by Islam for more than 1,400 years.”
The collection includes works originating from around the globe — China, Spain, India, Tunisia — many of them masterpieces. They include manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 19th century, jewelry set with precious stones, as well as vibrant enamels that belonged to India’s Mughal rulers and exquisite miniatures from India and Iran.
While the general perception of Islamic art is that it is always religious and without representations of humans and animals, this exhibition shows otherwise, including in miniature paintings. It also features many pieces with the calligraphic decoration and geometric patterns that have come to characterize Islamic art.
Professor Khalili has strong links with Oxford University, where he established a research fellowship in Islamic Art and endowed the Khalili Research Center for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East. This is the first time his collection has been shown in The Netherlands.
Open Friday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is 15 euros (about $19.50).