This monumental lion is one of the most important Iislamic Works of Art from the Mediterranean region. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The splendour of the artefacts in this gallery at Louvre Abu Dhabi is undeniable, as is the religious dimension to their creation.

On the furthest wall, a colourful wool-and-silk tapestry from the 16th century depicts a biblical scene. In the foreground is a 12th century bronze lion from the Islamic lands of the Mediterranean, and guides tell visitors that its hollow body suggests that it was once mechanised to produce a roaring sound.

This simultaneous creation of masterpieces from Islamic and Christian lands is portrayed over and over again in the gallery — a testament to the cultural exchanges and trades that marked the Middle Ages. So a stunning reliquary casket from 13th century France is decorated with Fatimid rock crystal plaques from Egypt, and close to it stands a massive copper basin made for a Cypriot king by Mamluk craftsmen in the 14th century.

Sword of Boabdil, steel-silver-enamel sword created for last emir of the kingdom of Granada, 15th-16th century

A trio of framed paintings of virgin and child mark the status of this image as a central motif in medieval Christian traditions. Still, the 15th century piece by Italian master Giovanni Bellini is the most mesmerising, and deservedly hung in its own space.

For those accustomed to Arabian crafts, the elaborate carvings on a steel-silver-enamel sword will seem familiar. It is a beauty to behold, having been created for Boabdil, the last emir of the kingdom of Granada, in the 15th to 16th centuries.

The importance of purification by water in this period is also represented by a slew of basins and fountain spouts on display.

As a symbol of their isolation from the rest of the world, artefacts from the Amerindian societies are kept in a separate little alcove. The room is dominated by a statue of a young man dating back to the 14th or 15th centuries, which is itself characterised by the sublime beauty favoured by these advanced civilisations.

Timings and entry fee: 10am-8pm on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 10am-10pm on Thursday and Friday
Dh60: Adults
Dh30: 13-22 years
Dh30: Education professionals
Free entry: Children under 13. Members of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Art Club loyalty programme, journalists, visitors with specials needs and their companions

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