As recent scholarship convincingly demonstrates, trade, travel, and cultural and diplomatic relations were the most important vehicles for the exchange of artistic ideas between Venice and her Muslim neighbors. Maps give a sense of place and a realization of the close proximity of Venice and Damascus, Alexandria, Cairo, Istanbul, and other major Islamic cities, while Venetian travel diaries and painted views of Near Eastern peoples and places provide insight into the Venetian perspective of these foreign lands.
The heart of the exhibition is comprised of objects from the 15th and 16th centuries, when Venetian interest in the Islamic world peaked. This is abundantly clear from the numerous representations of Islamic costumes and architecture in manuscript illumination, prints, drawings, and sculpture. The point of departure for these images was Gentile Bellini's diplomatic mission to the court of Sultan Mehmet II between 1479 and 1481. During and after his visit to Istanbul, Bellini represented Islamic figures and settings in his paintings, and his many pupils, like Vittore Carpaccio and Giovanni Mansueti, followed suit. Many of these artists' most magnificent "orientalizing" paintings and drawings, now dispersed all over the world, are featured in the exhibition.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web Site