For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to focus one part of the three Islamic Aesthetic Canon – The Arabesque.
Arabesque is a motif used by Islamic artists in the form of stylized vegetal representations, usually being geometric or symmetrical. It is often combined with the other subjects of the Islamic Aesthetic Canon that is Geometrical shapes and Calligraphy. As it is the case with Geometrical Patterns, Arabesques usually done in infinite pattern and it is done in a way that it exudes perfection – thought to be a representation of the perfection of God, or in an opposite matter, imperfections are intentionally made in thought of only God can create perfection, though this idea is disputed.
A tile from The Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, showing the usage of geometrical patterns combined with Arabesques. It is famous for its extensive faience tile work. It was built in seven years, starting around 1634-1635 A.D., during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. It was built by Shaikh Ilam-ud-din Ansari, a native of Chiniot, who rose to be the court physician to Shah Jahan and later, the Governor of Lahore. He was commonly known as Wazir Khan. (The word wazir means ‘minister’ in Urdu language.) The mosque is located inside the Inner City and is easiest accessed from Delhi Gate.
ornamental plasterwork from the Alhambra. Excellent workmanship of Islamic artisans can be seen here in the Alhambra, where finely detailed carvings, such as this one, is done all over the palace.
Fragment of a decorative frieze. Earthenware with moulded decoration under turquoise glaze, Timurid art, 1st half of the 15th century. From the Shah-i Zinda in Samarkand. Arabesques like this is common and often used as a background for calligraphy, especially as building decoration.
Ottoman alem – 18th century – Collection of Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. Alem is ornament made out of metal, probably as finials. The figure above shows the richly decorated in Arabesque artifact .
Folio from a Koran; Title page (Sura An-Najm)Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper. H: 32.6 W: 25.2 cm. Egypt. All of the Islamic Decorative Canon are utilized in almost everything from decorating buildings to daily items and ornaments to documents and manuscripts, more so with important books such as this Holy Qur’an.