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The Cincinnati Art Museum is honored to steward distinguished collections from South Asia, the Islamic World, the ancient Middle East, and the ancient Mediterranean. Tracing a trajectory that begins with pre-dynastic objects and culminates in contemporary works from artists based in these areas as well as diasporic artists in the US, the collection promotes the arts and cultures of a vast geographic region.

The arts and religions of South Asia (often defined as modern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) are represented through architectural fragments, decorative arts, and paintings that represent religious devotion and courtly life. Highlights include a Jain domestic shrine from Gujarat and a growing collection of court paintings from the Mughal empire, the Deccan region, Rajasthan, and the Punjab Hills.

The arts of the Islamic World (defined as countries where Islam was/is widespread, and here concentrates on the modern countries of the Middle East and Central Asia, with select objects from Islamic Spain and China) includes strengths in ceramics, metalwork, and the calligraphic arts. The collection also features the “hidden gem” of CAM’s collection: a domestic interior from Damascus dating to the eighteenth century.

At the center of the ancient Middle Eastern holdings is an exceptional collection of architectural fragments from the Nabataean temple of Khirbet et-Tannur, located along an ancient trade route north of Petra. As the most significant collection of Nabataean material outside of Jordan, CAM is committed to the research, conservation, and display of these works for visitors and scholars alike.

The Antiquities collection features notable examples of stone sculpture, decorated metalwork, painted wall carvings and ceramic vessels from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The earliest acquisition of ancient objects was by the Women’s Art Museum Association in 1886, and the museum was also the recipient of objects excavated in ancient Egypt and Sudan by the Egypt Exploration Society.

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Featured Objects

Shiva and Parvati

Kashmir/India

Period Room from Damascus

Damascus/Syria

Folio Describing the Grief and Anguish Caused by the Unpredictable Circumstances of Love Page from a dispersed diwan (collected works) of poetry by Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara

Herat/Afghanistan

Roundel with Bust of Atargatis-Tyche and Zodiac

Nabataean, 1939.233

Maharaja Sawant Singh of Kishangarh Addresses His Son, Sardar Singh

Kishangarh/Rajasthan/India

Mithraic Relief with Bull

Rome/Italy

Dr. Ainsley M. Cameron was appointed Curator of South Asian Art, Islamic Art and Antiquities at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2017. Cameron completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2010, where her research focused on the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Rajasthani painting workshop at Devgarh. She also holds an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and a BA in Archaeology and History from the University of Toronto. Cameron comes to Cincinnati with extensive experience in curatorial practice, having previously held positions at institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the British Library. In Cameron’s role at the Cincinnati Art Museum, she is responsible for the acquisition, research, and display of the museum’s South Asian, Ancient Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Antiquities collections. She has published, delivered lectures, and organized exhibitions that highlight the arts of India and the Islamic World, exploring both historic and contemporary practices. Cameron is also Project Director of a multi-year gallery reinstallation project of CAM’s ancient Middle Eastern collections, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.