Story and photos by the Staff
Islamic Art is a beautiful representation of the religion’s view of life and spiritual values with decorative motifs used in different media (architecture, home furnishings, calligraphy, painting etc.) and time periods in a wide range of cultures and lands.
Islamic Art is not restricted to religious art, but instead includes all of the art of the rich cultures of Islamic societies worldwide.
Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur’an, a book considered by its believers to be the verbatim word of God and the teachings of Muhammad, who is considered the prophet of God.
Because figural representations are generally forbidden by Islam, the word takes on a religious meaning as seen in the tradition of calligraphic inscriptions. Calligraphy and the decoration of manuscript Qu’rans is an important aspect of Islamic art as the calligraphy takes on religious and artistic significance.
Architectural elements take non-figural representation such as in mosques and palatial gardens. The art was influenced by Greek, Roman and Byzantine art styles, as well as the Sassanian art of pre-Islamic Persia. Central Asian styles were brought in with various nomadic incursions, mostly from Central and Northern Asia; and Chinese influences had a seminal effect on Islamic painting, pottery, and textiles. Geometrical designs in repetition, know as Arabesque, are used in Islamic art to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible, and infinite nature of God.
Many of the best examples of this style of art can be found in Spain where the palaces and gardens of North-African Moorish sultans that ruled over Andalucía from the 9th to the 14th century, are still admired for the beauty of the graceful arches, brilliant tile work and reflecting water pools. The Palacio de Generalife in Alhambra and the Real Alcázar de Sevilla, are brilliant and should be visited, at least once in a lifetime, by every person that appreciates the world’s cultural artistic diversity.
Another region of the world where Islamic Art has flourished and one can find spectacular examples of it in textiles and porcelain pieces is Turkish Cappadocia. Workshops with hundreds of weavers, painters and other artisans can be visited so one can purchase such exceptional items as silk-on-silk carpets -- I tried to find, to no avail, a flying carpet workshop during my visit of the area, so I ended purchasing a beautiful prayer rug, spectacularly decorated bowls and platters, wall plaques and other merchandise. However, please remember that that part of the world is still steeped in the “art of bargaining”, and if you give the merchant the first price he/she asks you will be considered a foolish foreigner and will be looked with disdain. So, bargain, as if you were born in a bazaar… start at 1/2 of the price requested, then slowly up the offer until you meet the merchant somewhere in the middle of the range.
There are many other examples of Islamic Art from the Middle East, the Arabic Peninsula, North East India and Pakistan, North Africa and other areas where Islam is the predominant religion.
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