Sideline: In Hawaii, Honolulu Hideway Showcases Unique Collection of Islamic Art

The Shangrila built by Doris Duke is now a museum showcasing her unique collection of Islamic Art. Photo: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright.

The Shangrila built by Doris Duke is now a museum showcasing her unique collection of Islamic Art. Photo: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright.

In 1938, American tobacco heiress Doris Duke embarked on one of her periodic shopping trips to Europe and Asia. Then 25, “the richest girl in the world”—as newspapers had dubbed her when she was a child—was eagerly acquiring antiques and fragments of old buildings to outfit her lavish new home in Hawaii, which she called Shangri La. “It seems almost incredible,” wrote New York Daily News society editor Nancy Randolph, “that there can be a square inch of space left . . . for another bit of bric-a-brac, after the months and months Doris has spent scouring Europe and the Far East for furnishings and knickknacks.”

Calligraphy writing has been a preeminent Islamic art since the seventh century when the Quran was revealed to Muhammad and recorded in the Arabic language. Controlled, angular lettering called Kufic script was commonly employed in the writing of early Qurans. This folio from the Quran, is Sura 9, "Repentance" (al-Tauba), verses 31-32, Near East or North Africa, ca. 900. Photo:  Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

Calligraphy writing has been a preeminent Islamic art since the seventh century when the Quran was revealed to Muhammad and recorded in the Arabic language. Controlled, angular lettering called Kufic script was commonly employed in the writing of early Qurans. This folio from the Quran, is Sura 9, "Repentance" (al-Tauba), verses 31-32, Near East or North Africa, ca. 900. Photo: Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

Today those “knickknacks” form the nucleus of one of the most spectacular collections of Islamic art in America. Duke, who died in 1993 at age 80, spent nearly 60 years filling her secluded Hawaiian home with more than 3,500 art objects, almost all from the Muslim world: ceramics, textiles, carved wood and stone architectural details, metalwork and paintings. The oldest pieces date from the 7th century, but the majority come from the 17th to 19th centuries.

On their honeymoon in 1935, husband Cromwell wrote, Duke fell in love "with the Taj Mahal and all the beautiful marble tiles with their lovely floral designs." She immediately commissioned a bathroom inspired by the inlaid motifs. Phtograph: Smithsonian Magazine. Copyright.

On their honeymoon in 1935, husband Cromwell wrote, Duke fell in love "with the Taj Mahal and all the beautiful marble tiles with their lovely floral designs." She immediately commissioned a bathroom inspired by the inlaid motifs. Photograph: Smithsonian Magazine. Copyright.

In the early 1960s, Duke turned the dining room into a tentlike environment, with Egyptian and Indian textiles, evocative of nomadic Islamic life. Photograph: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright

In the early 1960s, Duke turned the dining room into a tentlike environment, with Egyptian and Indian textiles, evocative of nomadic Islamic life. Photograph: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright

Used as a pool house/guesthouse, Shangri La's "Playhouse" was patterned after a 17th-century royal pavilion in Esfahán, Iran. It's interior features artworks created during the 19th-century reign of Iran's Qajar dynasty. Phtograph: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright

Used as a pool house/guesthouse, Shangri La's "Playhouse" was patterned after a 17th-century royal pavilion in Esfahán, Iran. It's interior features artworks created during the 19th-century reign of Iran's Qajar dynasty. Photograph: Smithsonian Magazine, Copyright

Complete Smithsonian article and pictures at:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/retreat.html

For more about the late Doris Duke and her Islamic Art Collection in Honolulu please visit: http://www.shangrilahawaii.org/page.asp?pageId=334

Outing and discovery:
When in Hawaii, please visit the Duke Shangrila

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