The Fitzwilliam Museum holds an important collection of applied arts from the Islamic world, including a selection of prayer rugs, glass and metalwork as well as a wide range of ceramics, representing many of the most significant achievement of Islamic potters throughout the last 1400 years. The collection includes examples of pottery used for both domestic and religious purposes of several different types, from different geographic regions: for example Turkish Iznik pottery and lustreware from the Middle East. In contrast to our ceramics from Europe or Asia, many of these ceramics were found during archaeological excavations, and as such are fragmentary or composite and require further conservation. Although the collection is referred to as ‘Islamic art’, some pieces predate the introduction of Islam to their places of manufacture.
Over 200 of the finest pieces in the collection were bequeathed by Oscar C. Raphael, a distinguished collector and expert on the history and arts of the East, who had become the first Honorary Keeper of Oriental Ceramics in 1924 and remained in this post until his death in 1941. His bequest brought the Fitzwilliam's holdings of Far Eastern ceramics to a level of national significance.