The Museum Team's Favorite Objects

Our team has handpicked their favorite objects and are sharing their personal connection with them. Join us on this special journey as we unveil new insights from our collection. 

Anke Scharrahs:

The Aleppo Room

I love every single detail of the wonderfully painted wall paneling from Aleppo, but I particularly like the Simurgh bird. In Persian mythology, he is considered the king of birds and possesses supernatural powers. Over the last 400 years, the enchantingly painted Simurgh had suffered some minor damages. Some paint chips had peeled off, and he looked a bit disheveled. During the restoration, I filled in the tiny imperfections with watercolor, and it felt as if he was coming back to life under my hands, suddenly spreading his wings. The blue of his body is painted with ground lapis lazuli, which was as expensive as gold at that time.

See the Interview with the restorer

Sarah Fortmann-Hijazi:

Plate with pomegranate decor

Pomegranate in olive green or the invention of bole red

The juicy, plump, bittersweet flesh capsules of the pomegranate have conquered the culinary world as a superfood. Already in the early 16th century, the pomegranate delighted. The symbol of fertility adorned silks, velvets, and also plates. Six large pomegranates adorn our ceramic plate. Contrary to the fiery red for which the pomegranate is known, these fruits are in olive green, turquoise, and dark blue. Surprisingly - but the bole red, an iron-rich earth pigment for which Iznik ceramics are globally famous, had not yet been invented at that time. This happened a few decades later. From the mid-16th century onwards, Iznik's bole red, with its characteristic relief, conquered the market and revolutionized the color scale sustainably. The color red has not lost its charm to this day, especially during the Advent and Christmas season.

Karin Pütt:

Damaskus Niche

In 1990, I lived for six months in a simple, smaller courtyard house in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Touma, and I also got to know and love other houses in the neighborhood from the inside. Many years later, I decided to create a poster exhibition on urban and rural residential architecture in Syria. For research on urban houses, I conducted a survey with the photographer Ikhlas Abbis, who also led us to wealthier courtyard houses in Damascus and Aleppo.

Finally, I was able to see, admire, and photograph the large, representative houses and courtyards from the inside! The exhibition was displayed in 2008 at the Goethe-Institut in Damascus and the Shaibani School in Aleppo. I brought a second set of posters to Berlin and had the opportunity to connect them with museum objects from the ISL. Under the title "Living Worlds: Woven Gardens and Painted Flowers - Paradise Interiors of Syrian Courtyard Houses," we opened the exhibition on December 17, 2009.

Every time I walked through the museum, the Damascus niche reminded me of the lush furnishings of wealthy Syrian courtyard houses, and I mentally compared them to the simple niches of more modest houses and how they were used. Thanks to the built-in shelves, vases, and other representative objects find their place in them.

Martina Müller-Wiener:

The Kashan-Vase

The vase is one of my favorite objects because it reminds me of a children's book I had. One picture showed a little girl wearing a colorful suit sitting in an armchair covered in the same colorful fabric. All you could see was her face. I imagine the vase was in a room covered in hexagon tiles. With its pattern of hexagons, it became almost invisible. This is called mimicry.

Stephanie Fischer:

I.1 Animal Carpet

This carpet, which was one of the first carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, was badly damaged by a bomb in 1945. After 1945, the restorer Mizzi Donner put together a "surviving" carpet from the remains. I imagine that this meaningful work also helped her to survive.

Deniz Erduman-Çalış:

Mosque lamp

I am excited about the artistic quality of this lamp, the delicate ornaments, and the calligraphy in blue and white. Lamps like these used to hang in religious buildings, especially under mosque domes. It has three curved loops to which chains for hanging were attached. To simulate this suspension, we have attached cords to them. However, the lamp is not actually supported by these cords, as that would be far too risky. Instead, it rests on a ring attached to the back of the display case. When viewed from the front, the perfect illusion of a hanging lamp is created.

Ulrike Uhlig:

Helmet with damascening decoration

The Turkmen Turban Helmet from the second half of the 15th century reveals many features only upon closer examination: The letters and floral patterns are made of silver wires inlaid through chasing. Up to 20 fine twisted silver wires were hammered into the engraved recesses to fill the entire surface. The intervening gilded areas feature delicate oval punchings, creating a multicolored effect through the texture and color of the metal. The iron was bronzed, or blackened, to enhance the contrast.

Anna-Maria Petermann:

Ceramic Bowl with Bird

When compared to the bigger objects of our collection, this bowl is hardly spectacular. But that hardly matters as I find it to be just charming. The elegant depiction in black and white and the abstraction of the pidgeons create a design, that is just as stylish nowadays, as it was back in the 11th century. Additionally, given the balanced proportions, I could spend hours looking at this bowl and I can’t wait to see it again in the new exhibition.

Maximilian Heiden:


Every tile of the so-called Konya niche has an individual shape and fits only in one specific place. Even the intricate ornamentation and calligraphy are not painted on, but emerge from differently colored tile fragments. This craftsmanship fascinates me!

Only upon closer inspection, we recognize stylized characters on the edge of the niche too, quoting verses from the Quran. By the way, the iconic turquoise of the niche inspired us in the color selection for the online portal ISLAMIC·ART.

Farwah Rizvi:


This aquamanile in our Islamic Art collection is a highlight for me because it is such a rare find. Finding an aquamanile, a form so popular in medieval Christian Europe, in 8th-century Iraq is like discovering a historical meeting point where diverse civilizations converged. I love that it represents this cool exchange of artistic vibes across different cultures. The fact that it is so uncommon in Islamic art makes it even more special. For me this aquamanile is not just an object in our collection; it's a storyteller, connecting dots between cultures.

Maria Schwed:


What luck! To stand under a magnificent wooden dome and gaze through a window at the landscape around Granada...

Because my favorite object is the dome ceiling from the observation tower of an early palace in the Alhambra, the so-called "Torre de las Damas."

The view in our museum is not quite as enchanting, of course. Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate to be able to oversee the restoration of this masterpiece of wooden architecture from the early 14th century as a conservator. I am fascinated by how perfectly it was assembled from hundreds of intricately carved and partly painted individual pieces into a beautiful lattice.

Additionally, the dome has a rich and exciting object history, having undergone seven relocations before being acquired by the museum. It has endured well and will now be dismantled and restored for what is hopefully its final move to our new permanent exhibition in the north wing. There, more will be revealed about its history, and its original installation situation will be presented in a more vivid manner.

Roman Singendonk:

Shadow puppet

This shadow puppet is something very special in the museum collection. It is made of leather and is several hundred years old. Only a few such objects have been preserved at all. Furthermore, it bears witness to a long and ancient performative culture. Shadow puppet theater and storytelling have been widespread in many Islamic cultures, partly to this day.

When looking at this figure, I always think of the many people who must have experienced great joy and diversion in the performances.

Margaret Shortle:

A small luster bowl

I don’t have one particular favorite object because almost every object in the museum offers a multiplicity of stories that communicate the rich intellectual and cultural traditions that inform their look and creation. It’s the idea that the visual and material objects can carry a wealth of historical, social and intellectual content that excites me. 

I will especially miss, however, I. 1996.2 - a small luster bowl decorated with a band of interlocking serpents whose agape mouths repeatedly mirror one another. It also includes a yet unidentified fragmentary poetic verse, a half verse from the Persia poet Sanā’i’s Hadiqat al-Haqia wa Shari’at al-Tariqa (The Enclosed Garden of Truth) and a rubā’ī (quatrain) by Nizami Ganjavi (d. 1209). I think often about what the combination of imagery, materiality and text can convey.

Luster Bowl © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, Johannes Kramer
Luster Bowl © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, Johannes Kramer

Franziska Kabelitz:

Historical exhibition catalogs

The collection of the Museum of Islamic Art includes many exciting objects, and our specialized library also holds some treasures! Important sources for our understanding of the origin and development of the collection include historical exhibition catalogs. In our library, which is accessible in person, there are inventory and exhibition catalogs from the early days of the museum to the present. Not least due to complex movements during the two World Wars, German division, and reunification, objects have acquired multifaceted biographies. In addition to art historical and conservatorial care, the research of origin and transfer contexts is therefore part of the museum's daily work. Historical catalogs often serve as a helpful starting point for this exploration.

Anna Beselin:

Glas tile millefiori

This small glass tile is a highlight for me: similar to carpets, it's the vibrant colors and the intricacy of the pattern that captivate me. But what truly fascinates me is the contrast between the warm colors and the cool, smooth surface. I would love to hold the tile up to the light to lose myself in the interplay of colors.

Thomas Tunsch:

Alhambra Dome

"In conjunction with the loan of the Alhambra Dome to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1992, I was able to travel to Hawaiʻi for the first time. That is why I show the “Shaka sign” when saying goodbye to the dome in the south wing of the Pergamon Museum."

Stephanie Fischer:

The Kashan Vase

"This large vase from the Ludwig Collection is an impressive showpiece that only reveals its secrets on closer inspection. The vase consists of three different parts. One third is the original from 13th century Iran, one third is a recreation in ceramic from the 19th century and one third is our restoration from last years. The sum of these thirds is more than the individual parts, namely a great vase."

See the footage of the restauration ->

© Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Foto: Farwah Rizvi