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Donald R Ricker, Martyr's Dream
oil on hardboard
45" x 90", 1998

In the Eighth Century, fear of idolatry led Muslim clergy to ban human and animal figures from religious art. Though not in the Koran specifically, the story is told that Muhammad's wife quoted him as saying, "Angels refuse to enter a house in which there is a picture...On the Last Day God will say to the makers of pictures "Give life to your creations!". As they must fail, they will be punished.

In spite of the religious ban, figural representation was popular in private places including the homes of the ruling class, harems, and bathhouses. Here coyly erotic representations were intended to restore strength lost in the bath.

Virtuous believers and those who acted with kindness were destined for an afterlife in a lush garden of paradise, inhabited by youths with goblets of pure drink, choice foods, jewel encrusted thrones, and virgins like guarded pearls. This prospect inspired Muslim warriors (often in their teens or twenties) with a contempt for death and for life on earth.

This philosophy has evolved over the years. Today we see that certain individuals still believe that their suicidal death to achieve religious political goals will be rewarded in a heavenly harem of forty houris. It takes a strong belief and imagination to seek happiness beyond the gift of life, whatever your circumstances.

Still stinging from Saddam Husseins global scale environmental crimes, I included in the upper right the dark consequences of the happy martyr's terroristic attacks on his neighbors.

European artists and their buying public went through a period called Orientalism which imaginatively pictured the peoples and animals of the near east. The notion of harim, a protected enclave of women bound to one man, fired the imaginations of more than one artist.



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