Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #22 – Arabesques

In this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to introduce to you a fundamental part of Islamic art – Arabesques.

Arabesques or sometimes spelled as Arabesk in Islamic art are patterns that resemble vegetation – flowers, leaves, crawling ivy – stylized to such a form that it is symmetrical. Much like geometrical Islamic art, but more “organic”, as I would refer it to as. It is used in decoration by itself or combined with either Geometrical patterns or calligraphy, or both. As usual, I will discuss this topic in further details under different category. But for this, we shall briefly look into the topic, and try to see the fundamentals of this Arabesque art.

Author - SanchoPanzaXXI

As usual, the finest example of Islamic art is to be found in Alhambra. This particular example combines all three of the Islamic Decorative Canon – Geometry Art, Arabesques and Calligraphy. The Arabic words in the center of the emblem reads the Nasrid dynastry motto  -ﻮﻻ ﻏﺎﻟﺐ ﺍﻻ ﷲ There is No Conquerer but God.

Underneath the dome of The Mosque of Omar, or more commonly known as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The decoration utilizes arabesques and calligraphy in its early form. You can see the impressive Arabesques on the borders that surrounds the calligraphy, as well as the repeating patterns beneath the dome itself.

An illustrated page off  the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, showing the different forms of Arabesques, Islamic or otherwise – Vegetal art, if you would prefer. In the center features the Arabesques from the Nasrid and Fatimid dynasties, in which one plate shows the Nasrid motto, mentioned before.

A decorative panel featuring Arabesque designs from the Timurid dynasty. This particular example is taken from the Gur Amir Mausoleum in Samarkand. It is generally thought that these Arabesque art came from the influences of the Chinese decorative motifs.

A published material showing the different forms and styles of Arabesques in different shapes. These examples could be taken from the Fatimid era mosques in Egypt.


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