Made in Iran, 1800s, this tile shows Yusuf appearing before the women on Memphis
These tiles come from the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha in the Quran. This story originally derives from the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife in the Old Testament. In the Quran version the story is set in Memphis. The handsome Yusuf is a slave in the service of the wealthy Potiphar. His wife Zulaikha attempts unsuccessfully to seduce him.
This is an example of lustreware, a skilled technique in use in the Islamic world from the 800s. By recreating the shiny effect of precious metals but on a humbler medium, lustre might have provided a response to the prophetic tradition (Hadith) which states 'he who eats from gold will have fire in his belly'.
Made to hang in a mosque, the flaring mouth of the lamp is decorated with Verse 24:35, The Light Verse from the Quran. The name that appears around the body of the lamp is Mamluk Sultan Muhammad ibn Qalaun who commissioned it.
Lear visited Palestine in 1858, and spent a fortnight making careful studies of Jerusalem from the surrounding hills. These formed the basis for five paintings, of which this is the largest and most magnificent. The view is dominated by the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock, and the Mount of Olives to the left.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, dedicated to the Tomb of Christ is one of the most important Christian shrines. This elaborate miniature model was made to be sold as a pilgrim souvenir. Produced in olive wood with ivory and mother of pearl inlay, it has lettered parts which would have made it easier to carry and reassemble.
The Angel Gabriel is sent by God the Father to announce to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the son of God. With its lavish use of gold and ultramarine, this would have been an expensive image to produce.
The taking down of Jesus from the cross is a popular theme in Christian art. Scenes like this encourage reflection on the nature of suffering. In addition to Christ himself the painting also shows the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and John the Evangelist
Painted by Giorgione or a pupil, late 1400s / early 1500s
The Virgin is a popular image in Catholic art. Scenes like this emphasise Christ's childlike nature and humanity. The hazy view of the Piazza San Marco from the bacino shows the campanile with a temporary flat-roofed bell-chamber, which was in place from 1489 to 1511.
Islamic tombstones are raised from the ground to pay homage to the dead. This tombstone marks the burial of Ghariba, daughter of Makhluf al-Jala. The inscription tells us that she died on 4 Shawwal of 431AH or 17 June 1040. It also includes Sura 112 of the Quran and a prayer for the dead girl's parents.
Medieval Anglo-Jewish bronze ritual vessel, discovered in a disused moat in Norfolk at the end of the C17th. It dates to approximately 1200-1300.
Jewish communities spread rapidly throughout the Mediterranean world from the 1st century CE, but it was not until the 11th century CE that Jewish people began to settle in England. Two hundred years later, they were expelled from the country in 1290.
This letter is written on a potsherd (ostraca) in Aramaic and refers at one point to the Passover. It was discovered at the 5th century BC Jewish settlement at Elephantine, Egypt, home to a thriving Jewish community. Clay potsherds were a cheap alternative to papyrus and ideal for writing short messages. The Passover commemorates the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, led by Moses through the wilderness back to the land of Canaan.
Figure of Varaha, the Boar, incarnation of Vishnu, stone, North India, Madhya Pradesh or Bihar, c. AD 900
In a creation myth, Vishnu took the form of a boar to rescue Bhuvedi, the Earth goddess from the depths of the primordial waters. In this sculpture, Bhudevi stands to the right of the boar's head, while a serpent-goddess (nagini) appears in front. Rows of sages, deities and other figures appear on the body of the cosmic boar. The prominent conch shell, discus and mace below are all symbols of Vishnu.
This carving shows Ganesha dancing joyfully, flanked by musicians. He holds a mango or sweetmeat which he savours with his trunk. One of India's most popular deities, the elephantheaded god is invoked by Hindus at the beginning of a new enterprise.
Stone model of the Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya, Bodhgaya, Bihar, about 1050
This temple, with the bodhi tree on its terrace, is shown before its various later restorations. Portable models of this kind were commissioned by visiting Buddhist pilgrims, and a number have survived in Tibet.
Relief depicting the death of the Buddha, Gandhara, schist, about AD200
The Buddha died at the age of eighty, reclining in a grove of trees. His last words to his disciples before attaining final nirvana were, 'All composite things must pass away. Be therefore mindful and vigilant!'
A young bull, known as Nandi in the later periods, often accompanies images of Shiva, as the god's associated vehicle or animal (vahana). Bull images of this kind are often positioned in front of a Shiva temple, facing towards the diety within the inner shrine.
Portable shrines of this kind were used by travelling priests who narrated the stories of Vishnu and his incarnations. The shrine has extendable folding doors painted with scenes of Vishnu in his various forms, the stories of Rama and Krishna and other subjects.