ISLAMIC ART

A summary of the many divergent cultures and countries usually included under the umbrella label of Islamic Art History is challenging in a survey course such as this. Nevertheless, an attempt will be made to cover some of the major highlights and choose a brief selection of characteristic examples from different regions. Our study will reveal also cross cultural connections between these regions as well as between such distant time periods as ancient Egypt and, for example, the mosques of modern Islamic Cairo or Spain. Why and how these interconnecting styles of architecture became implemented is a possible topic open for a research paper by one of you, or a topic to explore using book sources or more specialized Internet art historians.

Property of the Metropolitan MuseumThe example from the Metropolitan Museum on the left shows the elaborate and intricate mosaic work typical of Islamic art. The border around this niche is formed by the beautiful calligraphy of the Koran and would be extremely important to Muslim worshipers. This is the sacred revelation in their faith depicted only through words not images. This is a glimpse of the geometric and abstract quality of Islamic which is refreshing after looking at a lot of representation images of Western art.

No doubt the topic of Islamic art must begin with Muhammad and his spiritual transformative experience in the year 610 AD, near the city of Mecca in central Arabia. There Dal  Amin became Muhammad, the messenger of God, when the angel Gabriel is believed to have appeared to him, commanding him to record the sacred revelations from God (the Koran). While the Islamic religion is strictly ICONOCLASTIC and allows no representations of God, representations of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, are numerous, often showing his encounter with the archangel Gabriel. Not only are images of God unacceptable, since he is infinite and outside time and space, (similar to the Hebrew religion) however the name of God is also not finite, and according to certain traditions, there may be as many as 100 names for God that are to be used as a source of meditation.

See page 329 of your text for a more complete summary of Muhammad's life and the importance of Islamic calligraphy.

Another Islamic religious tradition necessary in understanding their architecture, is one of the five "Rules for Living", which commands that one must pray facing Mecca, the city of origin of their faith, five times a day.

Question: Reading through the first part of the chapter, what is the name of the prayer niche which validates the direction for worshippers to face for prayer?

What kind of artistic decoration would you find on the prayer niche in an Islamic Mosque?
What are the five rules for living in the Islamic faith?


(Answer the questions on the Discussion Bd)

Read about and look at some of the monuments from Isfahan, Iran on the links listed below.

Islamic religion is one of the few world religions that does not have a specialized hierarchy of officially ordained religious leaders, i.e. priests, bishops, etc. Undoubtedly it is this simplicity of structure yet stress on religious zeal that contributed to the phenomenal speed with which the religion spread throughout Arabia, Persia (Iran), present Iraq and Turkey, as well as major sections of Africa and Spain.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba


The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain is one of the most beautiful and well known monuments of the Islamic style in the West. This was built by the first Muslim ruler in the West - Abd ar-Rahman I around the mid 10th century, who made Cordoba his capital. Looking at the HYPOSTYLE interior with its countless vertically extended arches, as seen above, one might note how it follows the principle of repetition of orders, continuous semi-hypnotic rows of columns which entirely fill the hall giving the impression of infinity. We see something of this same repetition in the HYPOSTYLE HALLS of the New Kingdom Egyptian temples.

Go to these Islamic web sites for a series of images and information displaying the richness of this area.


Go to site map and then to Islamic for great images of all kinds of art.
For a page on Islam in Spain.
Excellent picture of the restored dome of the Mosque of Cordoba
Great image columned hall of Cordoba
Good images of Spain & mosques.
Mainly images of mosques around the world

 Last Published 7/14/16