Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #38 – The Three Islamic Decorative Canon

In my last posts, I wrote about the three Islamic Decorative Canon that is Calligraphy, Geometrical art and Arabesques. For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to show you a few examples of when these three elements of Islamic Decoration Canon is combined.

The three elements of the Islamic Decorative Canon an usually been seen being used together to create a beautiful pieces that can be usually seen in mosques or other highly significant monuments such as palaces, or it could also been found on daily items such as caskets. Usually, if it is used for monumental decoration it can be seen used on certain spots such as the Mihrab wall (the wall that is facing Mecca in mosques) or on Iwans (tall gateway entrances). Should the combination of these three be used on all over the monument, it would create a very busy and confusing decoration!

A Mihrab being displayed in the Pergammnon Museum. It features the three Islamic Decorative Canon- Geometrical patterns on the inside of the Mihrab, Calligraphy around the archway of the Mihrab as well as Arabesques.

Author - Fabio Alessandro Locati

A Wall decoration inside the Alhambra, Spain. The Nasrid-era palace is one of the finest masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture. Here floral Arabesque patterns can be seen enclosed by Geometrical patterns and features calligraphy.


Mausoleum of Qutub ud Din Aibak in Lahore, Pakistan. Apart from the Jaalis (pierced screen decoration) done in Geometric patterns, You can see calligraphic works around the gate as well as above the doorway itself, done in two distinctly different calligraphy style.

A wall in Bou Inania Medrasa in Fez, Morocco. The famed Zillij tiles uses Geometric patterns, While tile panels and plaster carvings of calligraphy can be seen above it, as well as Arabeques done in carved plaster, just like it is in the Alhambra.

Folio from a Koran; Title page (Sura An-Najm). Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper. H: 32.6 W: 25.2 cm. Egypt. Date late 14th century. The Quran is a sacred text held high by the Muslims, so it is very natural that they feature is with rich decoration.



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One response to “Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #38 – The Three Islamic Decorative Canon

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