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Islamic Art


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Slides for AP Art History Islamic Unit

Slides for AP Art History Islamic Unit

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  • 1.  
  • 2. Historical Background: The Prophet Mohammed was born in Arabia in 570 CE, at the height of the Byzantine Empire. A trader, married to a wealthy widow, he experiences a spiritual awakening in his early middle age, receiving the word of God ( Quran ) from the angel Gabriel. He begins preaching in Mecca, criticizing the wealthiest residents who benefit most from the pilgrimages made by pagan Arabs to visit the idols housed in the Kaaba , built by Abraham. He’s forced to flee from Mecca (flight known as the Hegira ) and goes to Medina, where his preaching gathers followers. Becoming both a spiritual and temporal military leader, he gathers his forces and returns to conquer Mecca in the first Holy War, in the name of Allah . He preaches submission to God, equality of all before God, strict monotheism, obedience to God's requirements: prayers facing Mecca 5x/day, fasting during Ramadan , giving alms to the poor, pilgrimage to Mecca (if possible) once during lifetime, following dietary restrictions. Islam becomes the fastest-growing religion in world history.
  • 3. 5 Pillars of Islam
    • Declaration of Faith
    • Prayer (salat)
    • Zacat or Tithe
    • The Fast of Ramadan (9 th month of the Islamic calendar)
    • Pilgrimage
  • 4. Dedication of Faith
    • There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammed is his Prophet
    • To become a Muslim one need only make this simple declaration of faith
    • Islam has absolute Monotheism
    • Mohammed transmits the direct word of God
    • Unlike Christ, Muhammed, while the perfect man is not divine – the preeminent role model
  • 5. Prayer (Salat)
    • 5 times a day (daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, evening, sunset)
    • Alone or together, indoors or out
    • Preferable to pray with others, demonstrating brotherhood
    • Face Mecca when praying, toward the Kaaba (house of God believed to have been built by Abraham and Ismail)
    • Once a week on Friday, gather for the Sabbath at a mosque or Islamic center
  • 6. Zakat or Tithe
    • Means “purification”
    • Individual and communal responsibility to care for the poor
    • Not veiwed as Charity; it is an obligation
    • Functions as a form of social security
  • 7. The fast of Ramadan
    • Once a year in the 9 th month of the Islamic calendar
    • Represents the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammed
    • IF health permits – abstain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sunset
    • A discipline to stimulate religious reflection)
    • Ends with a special feast (resembles Christmas with gifts, food, etc.)
  • 8. Haji or the Pilgrimage
    • At least once in a lifetime (if able) to Mecca
    • Every year more than 2,000,000 make the journey to form a community of faith
    • Pilgrims wear simple clothing to symbolize purity
    • The Eid al-Adha occurs toward the end: The Feast of the Sacrifice
  • 9. Islamic Architecture
    • Built to accommodate as many worshippers as possible in prostrate position: Communal Prayer
    • No elaborate ritual with a center of visual attention (like an altar)
    • Emphasizes horizontality as opposed to verticality (Christian Churches).
    • Roofed part held up by a combination of arches/columns called a hypostyle hall.
    • Worshipers face Mecca. Wall opposite entrance faces Mecca (quibla).
    • Quibla usually marked by a niche (often domed) called a mihrab.
    • Ornamentation prohibits use of graven images (no 3-D forms of humans or animals)
    • Decorations utilize patterns of:
      • 1. Geometric figures
      • 2. Intertwining plant forms
      • 3. Calligraphy of Arabic quotations from Quran.
    • Exterior has at least one minaret, up which the muezzin climbs to call for prayer.
  • 10. Islamic Art
    • Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
    • Houses the rock from which it is said Mohammed ascended to heaven
    • Octagonal plan
    • Inspired by centrally planned churches
    • Commanding view of the dome raised on a drum
    • Profusion of exterior and interior decoration
    • Calligraphy
    • Arabesque
    • Tessellation
    • Inspired by rounded Roman arches, but adding alternating striped stones
  • 11. Great Mosque at Samarra, 850
    • Largest mosque in the world
    • Could have accomodated 100,000 people gathered for prayer
    • 10 acres large
    • All that remains: exterior walls and 164’ high spiral minaret
  • 12.  
  • 13. Islamic Art
    • Great Mosque, Córdoba, begun in 786
    • An infinite sea of columns on the interior (columns harvested from existing Roman and Visigothic buildings.
    • Short columns (c. 9 feet) necessitated 2-tiered arches to raise ceiling and increase light.
    • Columns interlace with each other
    • Columns have capitals, but no bases
    • Arches are rounded, with alternating stripes (red brick and white marble)
    • Columns represent endless number of worshippers
    • All face the mihrab
    • Rich, baried visual effects & highly decorative
  • 14.  
  • 15. Islamic Architecture
    • The Taj Mahal, Agra 1632-48
    • Burial place of Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to her 14th child
    • Enclosed by a large red sandstone wall to provide a focused view
    • Vast symbolic image of Islamic paradise
    • Symmetrical
    • Harmonious
    • Minarets act to balance the composition
    • Typical of Islamic architecture: one large central arch, framed by two smaller arches one above the other
    • Square plan with chamfered corners
    • Small kiosks around dome
    • Dome has an onion shape (ancestry in the Byzantine empire)
    • Intricate floral and geometric inlays
    • Calligraphy across façade and on interior
  • 16.  
  • 17. Islamic Architecture
    • The Alhambra, Granada
    • Originally a military fortification
    • Later reconstructed as a palace
    • Slender columns set inside walls and abut window frames
    • Finely chiseled marble gives the effect of transparency
    • Marble cut in honeycomb pattern on ceiling
    • Stone inset in ceilings hangs like stalactites, and double sets of windows provide light
    • Small bubbling fountains provide relief
    • Canals pass water among the buildings
    • Calligraphy
    • Arabesque
    • Tessellation
  • 18.
    • Court of the Lions
    • Fountain surrounded by lions, demonstrating some secular use of animal forms.
    • Lion form derives from lamassu.
    • Lions are crudely carved, indicating infrequency with subject in art.
    • Peom carved in fountain rim describing how fierce the lions would be if not out of respect for the king.
  • 19. Islamic Painting
    • Human or animal figures of any kind theoretically banned
    • Generally in effect against large-scale representational art for public display
    • Ornate decorations on practical itmes (incense burners, cloth embroidery)
    • Heavy use in book illustration
    • Merging of outside/inside
    • No sense of true 3-D space
  • 20. Development of Paper A third important reason for the Golden Age was the establishment of a paper mill (factory) in Baghdad. Paper was first invented in China and then the Muslims learned how it was made. (Actually Chinese papermakers were taken prisoner and forced to teach their captors how to make paper) Soon paper replaced parchment (the skin of animals) and papyrus (a plant made into a kind of "paper" in ancient Egypt). The development of paper made it possible for a great many people to get books and learn from them. This was an important advance which affected education and scholarship.
  • 21. The Miniatures of the Zubdat Al- Tawarikh 1583
    • The stories of the prophets start with Adam and Eve. An interesting interpretation of this story is found in a miniature where Adam and Eve are shown with their thirteen twin children. (fig 2). As the text indicates, all of Adam's children were twins and each son had to marry the twin sister of a brother. Abel was asked by his father to wed Cane's twin sister, but Cane, whose twin happened to be the most beautiful wanted to keep her. This is how the dispute started between the two brothers. To end the dispute Adam asked both sons to make an offering to God and Abel's was accepted. This interesting version of the story is depicted in the lower left hand corner, where Cane is shown pulling the arm of his twin sister. The bushes, the symbol of Cane's offering, rest above the figures of Cane and his sister. Earlier Islamic artists, when illustrating the story of Adam and Eve, usually showed the couple in paradise but never placed them with their children, nor represented this version of the dispute between Cane and Abel. The Ottoman artist's narrative intent comes in here when he describes the story in the minutest detail and dresses his figures in sixteenth century Ottoman garments as if the theme was a local event.