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Dining Room

The dining room is Doris Duke’s (1912–93) interpretation of an Islamic-style tent.

Syrian Room

The Syrian Room is one of Shangri La’s most cohesive spaces: a period room created for posterity, echoing those found in a number of other museums.

Damascus Room

The Damascus Room is a highlight of the Islamic art collection assembled by Doris Duke (1912–93) and is one of two Syrian interiors preserved at Shangri La.

Entry Courtyard

Visitors to Shangri La descend a long driveway shielded by dense foliage and first encounter the main house from within an open-air space known variously as the entry or banyan courtyard.

Foyer

The foyer is the first room that visitors enter in the main house, and it provides an introduction to Doris Duke (1912–93) as a collector and patron, to the visual language of Islamic art, and to the experience of Islamic art that Shangri La offers.

Central Courtyard

The main house at Shangri La revolves around a central courtyard, an architectural feature central to a number of buildings in the Islamic world.

Living Room

The living room preserves a number of important works of art from North Africa and Spain.

Mihrab Room

The Mihrab Room preserves a number of masterpieces in the DDFIA collection, particularly architectural tilework produced during the Ilkhanid period (1226–1353).

Dining Room

The dining room is Doris Duke’s (1912–93) interpretation of an Islamic-style tent.

Playhouse

Located on the west end of the property and adjacent to the ocean, the Playhouse at Shangri La is a poolside pavilion inspired by the Chehel Sutun (c. 1647–50) palace in Isfahan, the capital of Iran from 1598 to 1722. 

Mughal Garden

The Mughal Garden is Shangri La’s microcosm of the royal gardens found throughout the Indian subcontinent. 

Private Hall

The private hall is located off the central courtyard and terminates in the Mughal Suite.

Mughal Suite

The Mughal Suite is located at the end of a private hall extending from the central courtyard.

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The dining room. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

The dining room as it appears today. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

Dining room tent panels, featuring nineteenth-century Egyptian appliqués. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)

Mosaic tile panel in the form of a gateway, Iran, probably nineteenth century. Stonepaste: monochrome-glazed, assembled as mosaic, 153 x 160 in. (388.6 x 406.4 cm). On the dining room lanai. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.)

Mosaic tile panel on the dining room lanai. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.)

The dining room is Doris Duke’s (1912–93) interpretation of an Islamic-style tent. At certain times and in certain places, tents were a key component of Islamic palatial architecture, particularly when rulers and their administrators lived itinerant lifestyles based on seasonal migration and/or warfare. For example, the Mongols who conquered Iran in the thirteenth century spent winters in Mesopotamia (Baghdad) and summers in northwestern Iran at palaces like Takht-i Suleyman; their descendants, the Mughal emperors of India, migrated between cities such as Lahore, Delhi and Agra; and Ottoman rulers, particularly of the sixteenth century, were regularly on the move due to constant military engagement. Islamic royal tents were known to have been particularly luxurious, and their “walls” showcased a range of textiles in various media such as cotton, silk and gold, and techniques like embroidery, applique and brocade. Individual tent panels often featured arches (83.13a-b), which, placed side by side, would create transitory versions of the permanent arcades found in buildings.

In the early 1960s, Duke decided to transform her aquatic-inspired dining room, featuring shell-motif furniture and built-in aquaria, into an interior with a more “Islamic” feel. In order to enclose the room in a tent, 453 yards of striped blue fabric were custom-made in India and then draped from the ceiling and walls. The south and west “walls” of the tent were further embellished with two types of appliqués. The first group consisted of five nineteenth-century Egyptian appliqués in the Mamluk Revival style, which may have once been part of a tent (see an example recently at auction). The second group included two nineteenth-century Indian appliqués with designs echoing jalis, a form well-known to Duke from her 1935 India commission. Depending on Duke’s preferences, the south and west fabric walls could be rolled up or lowered; the former affording an unobstructed view of the ocean and Diamond Head, the latter resulting in a dark, intimate space. For the north wall, Duke recreated an Ottoman-style fireplace with adjacent side niches, in which she displayed medieval Persian ceramics, particularly those in the lajvardina technique (48.408). For the adjacent east wall, a custom-made Iranian mosaic panel (48.407) previously located on the façade of the stairway leading to the games area was moved indoors.

Like the tents of the imperial Islamic world, the dining room at Shangri La is a palatial space filled with rich furnishings. The most luxurious element is a Baccarat chandelier (47.134) made for export to India (notice the red and green color scheme) and once in the collection of the Salar Jung, the prime minister of Hyderabad. The low-lying table below is comprised of a Hawaiian-made tabletop resting on four cast copper alloy Indian legs. Today, its surface displays a range of Islamic artworks used for routine daily activities such as lighting a room, washing one’s hands, serving food, or pouring water. These vessels exemplify an important tradition in Islamic art: the elevation of functional domestic objects to exquisite works of art. The surfaces of some are covered with calligraphy (Greek: beautiful writing) that “speaks” to their beauty or function. The gilded inscriptions on a Qajar Iranian ewer (52.8) read, “This ewer is completely full of gold and jewels; It is worthy of the presences of the grandees of the country,” while those on a Safavid Iranian candlestick (54.100) are borrowed from a well-known Persian poem about a moth being attracted to a flame, like a lover to the beloved. Marks of ownership further convey the high esteem once afforded to objects. A late nineteenth-century Ottoman silver tureen (57.218a–b), for example, bears the name of a noble lady. Finally, an aquamanile in the form of a cat (48.183) demonstrates how the sculpting and painting of living beings was, at certain times and in certain places, very common in Islamic art. Incense burners, flasks, containers, and lamps were often made in the forms of birds and animals (see additional examples in the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The dining room as it appears today was completed in the mid-1960s. Concurrently, Duke formalized one of her greatest cultural legacies: the second codicil to her will, which stipulated the creation of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art in order “to promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern Art and Culture.” Duke’s interest in tents and tented spaces therefore culminated in the creation of her explicit mandate for the future study and appreciation of Islamic art within her home.

Historical Images

Drawing of the dining room, depicting its original aquatic theme, late 1938. H. Drewry Baker, Wyeth & King, Architects. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The dining room under construction, November 6, 1937. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The dining room under construction, June 28, 1938. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. When the Cromwells returned from the Middle East in 1938, they incorporated pre-Islamic Iranian elements into the dining room's design. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The dining room at Shangri La, 1947. Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The dining room's glass aquaria, 1947. Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The custom-made Iranian mosaic tile panel (48.407) on the east wall was relocated from the stairway leading to the games area. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.) The dining room's Ottoman-style fireplace features decorative niches, in which Doris Duke displayed medieval Persian ceramics. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.) Dining room tent panels could be raised or lowered, depending on one's mood. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2010.)
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Available on this website:

Other resources:

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, “Courtly Art of the Ilkhanids (lajvardina),” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2011.

Caroline Stone, “Movable Palaces,” Saudi Aramco World, 2010.

Linda Komaroff, Sip, Dip, and Pour: Toward a Typology of Water Vessels in Islamic Art(conference presentation, Islamic Art Symposium, 2007).

John Feeney, “Tentmakers of Cairo,” Aramco World Magazine 37, 6 (November–December 1996).

Water Usage: Drinking and Washing,” Museum with No Frontiers, Discover Islamic Art.

Damascus Room
Private Hall
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