Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #23 – Islamic Plaster Carvings

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to introduce to you another impressive form of Islamic artistic expression – Islamic Plaster Carvings.

While plaster is mostly used for wall reinforcement in Islamic architecture such as mosques and palaces, it is also one of the mediums used by the Islamic arstisans to express their creativity. Perhaps because the material itself is malleable and easy to carve with, Islamic artisans made very impressive and detailed works, almost like the parallel of sculptures in Western or European art. We will discuss this matter in a different post under a different category.

Author(s) - Steve & Jemma Copley

Decorative carved plaster work from Bou Inania Medersa, a medersa (religious school) in Fez, Morocco. Carved plasters are usually found in North African regions of the Islamic empires such as Morocco and the Iberian peninsula.

Author - Poco a poco

Plaster Carvings and Muqarnas in Alhambra, Spain. While plaster is used for carved decorations, it is also used to make Muqarnas, stalactite-like ornaments used in decorations underneath arches, domes and the like.

Author - Javier Carro

Another plaster carving from Alhambra, Spain. Due to the malleable nature of plaster, Islamic artisans can make repeating patterns such as these pretty easily, and also with their techinques and methods they made these carvings last for a long time.

Cornice with finials decoration. Carved and painted plaster, 10th century (?), Nishapur. Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET 40.170.267). While carved plasters may concentrate in the Northern African region, Islamic artisans in the Central Asian also found their way having these decorations, albeit not as complicated and sophisticated as their North African counterparts.

Example of Persian craftsmen artwork from local humble earth. Photo by user Zereshk. The motifs used by the artisans of Central Asian are clearly different, perhaps influenced by the Sassanid aesthetic ideals.

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