Ancient Islamic Art

Islamic art refers to art created by Islamic artists and artisans as well as art created in lands ruled by Muslims. Islamic art has been created since the 7th century and incorporates a wide array of artistic genres like painting, calligraphy, architecture, ceramics, glass-making, and more. Islamic art reflects both religious works as well as works merely indicative of Islamic culture. Over the centuries, Islamic art has developed many characteristic elements and distinctive styles.

Islamic art has been influenced by Roman, Byzantine, and early Christian art. The art of pre-Islamic Persia was particularly influential on the development of Islamic art as was the art of Central Asia. As the centuries passed, various ruling dynasties would also impact the art associated with their period of rule. Because of the vast territories that have ascribed to the Islamic faith, there are many different styles of art produced under the Islamic umbrella. Ethnically and culturally diverse peoples have contributed to the ongoing development of Islamic art.

Islamic art is largely characterized by arabesques, repeating botanical or geometrical elements that adorn works of art. Although there is some representation of human and animal figures in Islamic art, many groups prefer to avoid these representations in case it is construed as a work of idolatry. Pattern is particularly integral to many works of Islamic art as well.

Architecture is a cornerstone of ancient Islamic art. Both religious and public architecture were promoted by the Umayyad dynasty of the seventh century. Works like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque of Damascus represent celebrated Umayyad works. Other great Islamic architectural works include the famed Blue Mosque of Samarkand, the Siose Bridge of Iran, and Alhambra of Spain.

Islamic calligraphy is another cornerstone of Islamic art. Often Qu’ranic verses adorned works of architecture as well as paintings and other art works. Initially calligraphy was presented in Arabic script, but Persian, Turkish, and other scripts can also be found. Calligraphy also present in the paintings of the Islamic world. Though wall paintings were popular in the Islamic tradition, the best preserved painted works of Islamic art are works of illuminated texts and miniature paintings. Also, no overview of Islamic art could be complete without mention of the rugs and carpets produced by Islamic artisans. Famous Oriental rugs have been celebrated throughout the world for their beauty and artistry.

Tiling, glass, metal works, ceramics, and various applied arts were also part of the ancient Islamic artistic tradition. The best preserved examples of these works are collected by the world’s most illustrious museums.