Study – Terms and Definitions of Islamic Art and Architecture 2

Before this we discussed the terms and definitions of Islamic Architecture (click here to visit the said post) where we looked at some of the most common architectural element of an Islamic – secular or religious – buildings.

In this post we shall attempt to look at some of the terms and definitions of Islamic art, whether used on buildings or items of daily life.Note that this is a listing of visual art forms, so performing arts or music will not be discussed.

  • Calligraphy (ﺧﻂ) – The art of calligraphy, usually denotes Arabic calligraphy in this sense. It ranges from the cursive forms of Thulth and Nasakh to the square, angular forms of Kufic. It is a versaitle artform, decorating from mosques to public building to of course manuscripts.

    A page of an Ilkhanid Koran, Il-Khanate (1256-1353 A.D.) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, from the user – Danieliness

  • Arabesques – The art form involving usage of floral or vegetal motifs.It is basically scroll of leaf and stems intertwining to create an interlacing  geometric system. It is usually utilized alongside geometrical patterns and calligraphy, and is one of the major form of Islamic Aesthetic. One of the finest example would be the Iznik ceramics.

Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem) interior, from March 1914 National Geographic Magazine.

  • Geometric Designs – I haven’t founded any Arabic term for general Geometric Design. It is a design or pattern consisting geometrical shapes and stars arranged in a manner that will be symmetrical. It is used mostly for tile decoration (Zillij) or generally for buildings, but it is also found on various daily items such as plates, dishes or silverware.

Ornamental element of the door to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Author – Pawel Ryszawa. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

  • Miniatures – usually done in Persia, modern day Iran. It is a singular artwork or a collection of miniatures arranged as a book  done for an illuminated manuscript. Usually depicts stories of Persian myth, however, religious (in this context, Islamic) story depiction in miniatures are not uncommon. Even though in Islam it is forbidden to depict human or animal forms, this type of art exists, even though it is not as widespread throughout the Islamic world as it is in the case of the former 3 categories.

Story of Mejnūn – In the Wilderness, 1507, Rozat-ol-Anwar (Khaju’s Collection), Golestan Palace

These four decorations are very often used, either together or singularly, whether for buildings or palaces or mosques, or manuscripts and books, or even daily household items. They are used extensively throughout the Arabic world and also the Islamic world generally.

Islamic art facade. Museumsinsel, Berlin, Germany. Author – Adamantios. Taken from the
Wikimedia Commons

The picture above is a perfect example of all of the art forms into one space. (Click on the picture for a closer view). Note The arabesques all around the facade, the miniatures flanking the doors, calligraphy above it and geometrical design on the doors itself.


1 Comment

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One response to “Study – Terms and Definitions of Islamic Art and Architecture 2

  1. amjad

    nice work but i need help this is my email some terms for the architecture in mosque

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