Iran

'Pearls on a String' at the Walters Art Museum offers a glimpse into Islamic royal courts from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries

'Pearls on a String' at the Walters Art Museum offers a glimpse into Islamic royal courts from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries

Light filtered through a 17th-century white marble jali screen, and an intricate geometric pattern illuminated the floor. The jali screen, part of the Walters Art Museum's "Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts," might have once adorned a Mughal window, separating a room from a larger space, a royal reception room perhaps, yet allowing fresh air, perfumed scents, and—most important—the sounds of conversation to pass. Slow-moving passersby might capture something from the lives behind the screen, filtered through the Mughal pattern.

I was such a passerby as I walked around "Pearls," which is on display through...

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