Make your own free website on

Islamic Synopsis:

Islamic Art

Islamic Art 622 - 1653


Mohammed - founder of Islam, considered to be last and final of line of Judeo-Christian "prophets”
Koran (Quran) - Muslim holy book of relevations to Mohammed

Iwans - a vaulted rectangular recess opening onto a courtyard
Mecca - birthplace of

Calligraphy - highly stylized lettering, considered the highest Islamic art form for its use in sacred texts
Qibla - wall oriented to Mecca
Mihrab - niche in Qibla wall
Minarets - slender towers adjacent to mosque in which muezzin climb to call to prayer
Mosque - Islamic structure for religious gatherings
Minbar - form of pulpit
Muezzin - crier who calls faithful to prayers
Arabesques - geometric, floral, and vegetable patterns
Madrasa - school for law and religion
Horror vacui - aversion to undecorated or unfilled space in an art or craft work.


Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 687 - 692

Detail of mosaic, Great Mosque, Damascus, c. 706 - 715

Facade of the Umayyed palace, Mshatta, Jordan, details of frieze, limestone, 16’ 7” 740 - 750

Plan of the Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq ca. 848 - 852
Minaret of the Great Mosque, Samnarra, Iraq

Interior, Great Mosque, Cordoba, Spain, 8th - 10th cent.
Vestibule, of the Mihrab, 961 - 965
Dome in front of the mihrab, 961 - 965

Court of the Lions, the Alliambra, Granada, Spain, c. 1354 - 91

Madrasa-mosque-mausoleuin complex of Sultan Hasan, Cairo, Egypt, begun 1356
Courtyard of the madrasa of Sultan Hasan, c. 1356 - 63
Mausoleum of Sultan Hasan, 1356 - 63

Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632 - 1647

De Materia Medica. from Arabic translation of Dioscorides, c. 1224

Bahram Gur and Princess Khwarezum in Turquoise Palace,
Laila and Majnun at School, from a manuscript of Khamsa of Nizami, 1524 - 1525


DJB Quick Notes

~ human and animal figuration prohibited in Islam, strictly adhered to in mosque areas


DJB In-Depth Notes

Most of the design elements of Islamic ornament are based on plant motifs, which are sometimes intermingled with symbolic geometric figures and with human and animal shapes. But the natural forms become so stylized that they are lost in the purely decorative tracery of the tendrils, leaves, and stalks. These arabesques form a pattern that will cover an entire surface, be it that of a small utensil or the wall of a building. (This horror vacui is similar to tendencies in barbarian art, although other aspects of Islamic design distinguish it from the abstract, barbarian patterns.) The relationship of one form to another in Islamic art is more important than the totality of the design: the patterns have no function but to decorate. This system offers a potential for unlimited growth, as it permits extension of the designs in any desired direction. Most characteristic, perhaps, is the design's independence of its carrier; neither its size (within limits) nor its forms are dictated by anything but the design itself. (G9-305)