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Islamic Art. Islam spread rapidly after its founding, encompassing much of Africa, Europe, and Asia. The art of this vast region draws its distinctive character both from Islam itself and from the diverse cultural traditions of the world’s Muslims. Categories of Islamic Art. Architecture
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Islamic Art Islam spread rapidly after its founding, encompassing much of Africa, Europe, and Asia. The art of this vast region draws its distinctive character both from Islam itself and from the diverse cultural traditions of the world’s Muslims.
Categories of Islamic Art • Architecture • Calligraphy • Textiles (carpets) • Manuscript illumination • Ceramics (tile) • Gardens There is confusion about what is prohibited in Islamic art. You may have encountered this issue last year. Let’s consider two sources.
Marilyn Stokstad, in Art History: A prohibition against depicting representational images in religious art, as well as the naturally decorative nature of Arabic script, led to the use of calligraphic decoration on religious architecture, carpets, and handwritten documents. Because Islam discouraged the use of figurative images, particularly in religious contexts—unlike Christian art of the same period—Islamic artists developed a rich vocabulary of aniconic, or nonfigural, ornament that is a hallmark of Islamic work. This vocabulary includes complex geometric patterns and the scrolling vines known outside the Islamic world as arabesques. Figural representation, to the extent it was permitted (which varied from time to time and place to place), first developed most prominently in regions with strong pre-Islamic figural traditions, such as those that had been under the control of the Byzantine and Roman empires.
from PBS website for Islam: Empire of Faith It is often said that Islam bans images of people or animals, but this is false. The Koran itself has very little to say on the subject and the Traditions of the Prophet are open to various interpretations. As Muslims believe that God is unique and without associate, He cannot of course be represented. As He is worshipped directly without intercessors, images of saints, as in Christian or Buddhist art, have no place in Islam. As the Koran is not a narrative like the Torah or the Gospels, there is little reason for Muslims to tell religious stories through pictures. continued . . .
Instead, Islamic religious art has focused on the glorification of God's word, specifically by writing it beautifully, and accompanying the Arabic script with geometric and floral designs known as arabesques, in which plants grow according to the laws of geometry rather than nature. Some people believe that these designs have deep spiritual and mystical meaning, while others believe they are simply beautiful patterns. Believers are free to see in these designs whatever they like — this sense of ambiguity is one of the hallmarks of Islamic art. Examples of religious art range from beautifully calligraphied manuscripts of the Koran to intricately carved and inlaid pulpits or minbars, from which the Friday sermon is given in the mosque. continued . . .
Islamic secular art, on the other hand, might or might not have representations of living beings, depending on the local cultural traditions and the preferences of the artist and patron. For example, North Africans have generally shown little taste for images, while Iranians have always enjoyed them, sometimes even in religious settings. Much of Islamic secular art, like religious art, is decorated only with geometric and vegetal patterns and inscriptions, but many objects, whether glazed ceramics, carved ivories, intricately woven silks, or luxurious carpets, are decorated with lively human and animal figures set individually or in scenes. Unlike much Christian art, which largely developed for the use of the Church, Islamic secular art has been characterized by the transformation of everyday objects, whether bowls for eating or carpets and cushions to sit on, into things of transcendent beauty. continued . . .
Given the Islamic fascination with God's word, the art of the book has always been one of the favorite forms of Islamic art, and calligraphers in the Islamic lands have the fame accorded painters and sculptors in the West. Although transcribing the Koran and decorating the pages with beautiful designs was always revered, calligraphers and painters, particularly in Iran, India and Turkey, also prepared manuscripts of epic and lyric poetry, history and geography with beautiful calligraphy and exquisite miniatures.
Sinan the Great, the Selimiye Cami (mosque of Selim), Edirne, Turkey 1570-74
Calligraphic illumination of a page of poetry, Iran, 16th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Animal Carpet, Turkey, 14th -15th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Safavid Carpet, Kashan, Persia, 17th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid Visits the Turkish Bath, from a later copy of the Khamsa (Five Poems) of Nizami, Iran, 1494.
Laila and Majnun at School, miniature from a manuscript of the Khamsa (poems) of Nizami, 1524-25.
Mosaic tile decoration of a mihrab, Isfahan, Persia,1354. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Persian Garden has certainly survived into the post-Islamic era. The basis of such a design was built into the pavilion of Shah Abbas the Great (r. 1588 – 1629 AD) of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736 AD).
Safavid Garden Palace of Hasht Behesht (The Eight Paradises), Isfahan, Iran.
Mughal gardens are a group of gardens built by the Mughals in the Islamic style of architecture. This style was influenced by Persian gardens and Timurid gardens. Significant use of rectilinear layouts are made within the walled enclosures. Some of the typical features include pools, fountains and canals inside the gardens. Mughal gardens at Taj Mahal