CalligraphyAll text for Calligraphy is from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cali/hd_cali.htm Calligraphy is the most highly regarded and most fundamental element of Islamic art. It is significant that the Qur’an, the book of Gods revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, was transmitted in Arabic, and that inherent within the Arabic script is the potential for developing a variety of ornamental forms. While most works of art had legible inscriptions, not all Muslims would have been able to read them. One should always keep in mind, however, that calligraphy is principally a means to transmit a text, albeit in a decorative form.
Calligraphy In some cases, calligraphy is the dominant element in the decoration. In these examples, the artist exploits the inherent possibilities of the Arabic script to create writing as ornament. An entire word can give the impression of random brushstrokes, or a single letter can develop into a decorative knot.
Calligraphy In other cases, highly esteemed calligraphic works on paper are themselves ornamented and enhanced by their decorative frames or backgrounds
Calligraphy Calligraphy can also become part of an overall ornamental program, clearly separated from the rest of the decoration.
Calligraphy In some examples, calligraphy can be combined with vegetal scrolls on the same surface though often on different levels, creating an interplay of decorative elements.
Vegetal PatternsAll text for Vegetal Patterns is from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vege/hd_vege.htm Vegetal patterns employed alone or in combination with the other major types of ornament— calligraphy, geometric pattern, and figural representation— adorn a vast number of buildings, manuscripts, objects, and textiles, produced throughout the Islamic world. Unlike calligraphy, whose increasingly popular use as ornament in the early Islamic Arab lands represented a new development, vegetal patterns and the motifs they incorporate were drawn from existing traditions of Byzantine culture in the eastern Mediterranean and Sasanian Iran.
Vegetal Patterns The early centuries of the Islamic era saw the initial adoption of seminaturalistic pre-Islamic motifs and patterns, followed by widespread and highly diverse experimentation adapting these forms to suit the aesthetic interests and tastes of the new Muslim patrons.
Vegetal Patterns It was not until the medieval period (tenth–twelfth centuries) that a highly abstract and fully developed Islamic style emerged, featuring that most original and ubiquitous pattern often known as "arabesque."
Geometric PatternsAll text for Geometric Patterns is from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geom/hd_geom.htm While geometric ornamentation may have reached a pinnacle in the Islamic world, the sources for both the shapes and the intricate patterns already existed in late antiquity among the Greeks, Romans, and Sasanians in Iran. Islamic artists appropriated key elements from the classical tradition, then complicated and elaborated upon them in order to invent a new form of decoration that stressed the importance of unity and order. The significant intellectual contributions of Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists were essential to the creation of this unique new style.
Geometric Patterns Consisting of, or generated from, such simple forms as the circle and the square, geometric patterns were combined, duplicated, interlaced, and arranged in intricate combinations, thus becoming one of the most distinguishing features of Islamic art
Geometric Patterns In its repetition and complexity, it offers the possibility of infinite growth and can accommodate the incorporation of other types of ornamentation as well. In terms of their abstractness, repetitive motifs, and symmetry, geometric patterns have much in common with the so-called arabesque style seen in many vegetal designs. Calligraphic ornamentation also appears in conjunction with geometric patterns.
Figural RepresentationsAll text for Figural Representations is from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/figs/hd_figs.htm With the spread of Islam outward from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, the figurative artistic traditions of the newly conquered lands profoundly influenced the development of Islamic art. The Islamic resistance to the representation of living beings ultimately stems from the belief that the creation of living forms is unique to God, and it is for this reason that the role of images and image makers has been controversial. As ornament, however, figures were largely devoid of any larger significance and perhaps therefore posed less challenge.
Figural Representations As with other forms of Islamic ornamentation, artists freely adapted and stylized basic human and animal forms, giving rise to a great variety of figural-based designs. Figural motifs are found on the surface decoration of objects or architecture, as part of the woven or applied patterns of textiles, and, most rarely, in sculptural form.
Figural Representations In some cases, decorative images are closely related to the narrative painting tradition, where text illustrations provided sources for ornamental themes and motifs. As for manuscript illustration, miniature paintings were integral parts of these works of art as visual aids to the text, therefore no restrictions were imposed.
Figural Representations A further category of fantastic figures, from which ornamental patterns were generated, also existed. Some fantastic motifs, such as harpies (female-headed birds) and griffins (winged felines), were drawn from pre- Islamic mythological sources, whereas others were created through the visual manipulation of figural forms by artists.