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Transcript
ARH 2050: History of Visual Arts I
Prof. Sheramy Bundrick
5 November 2002
ISLAMIC ART
Early Islamic Art and Architecture:
Page from the Quran with beginning of surah 18, al-Kahf
(The Cave), 9th or early 10th c.
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 687-692
Great Mosque, Damascus, Syria, 706-715
Great Mosque, Cordoba, Spain, 8th-10th c.
Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq, 848-852
Ewer in the form of a bird, by Sulayman, 796
Textile fragment with lions and palm tree, from Uzbekistan, 8th c.
Later Islamic Art and Architecture:
Palace of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 1354-1391
Complex of Sultan Hasan, Cairo, Egypt, begun 1356
Mosque of Selim II, Edirne, Turkey, 1568-1575,
Architect: Sinan
Mosaic mihrab from the Madrasa Imami, Isfahan, Iran,
ca. 1354 (now in Metropolitan Museum)
Brass inlaid basin by Muhammad Ibn al-Zayn (“Baptistère de Saint
Louis”), from Egypt, ca. 1300
Carpet from the funerary mosque of Shaykh Safi al-Din (?), Iran,
attributed to Maqsud of Kashan, 1540
Terms:
mihrab
muqarnas
Kufic script
voussoirs
qibla
madrasa
Nasrid
Umayyad
imam
Mamluk
Abbasid
caliph
sultan
13.17
13.1–13.2
13.3-4
13.12–13.14
13.10
13.16
13.15
13.18
13.19–13.20
13.21–13.23
13.26
13.31
13.28
minaret
calligraphy
aniconic
ISLAMIC ART NOTES:
-AD 610: Muhammad (Messenger of God) begins receiving revelations from archangel
Gabriel—had been merchant al-Amin
-revelations are the basis of Islam (“submission to God’s will)—recorded in the Quran
(“recitation”)
-AD 622: hijra (flight) of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina
-AD 630: Muhammad returns to Mecca with soldiers, took control of city and converted
population
-AD 632: death of Muhammad
-caliphs: successors of Muhammad—unite political and religious leadership in one ruler
-by 640: Muslims had conquered Syria, Palestine, and Iraq
-642: Muslims conquer Alexandria after Byzantines abandon it—Muslim leadership of
Lower Egypt
-by 710: all of North Africa under Islamic leadership
-711: advancement into Spain
-by 732: had advanced into France, where opposed successfully by the Franks (Charles
Martel, Charlemagne’s grandfather)
-by 751: Muslims as far east as the Indus River
-Islamic rulers flourish in Cordoba until 1031
-1453: Ottoman Turks take Constantinople
-1492: Ferdinand and Isabella retake Granada
-success of Islam as combination of military might and winning converts
Early Islamic Art and Architecture:
Page from the Quran with beginning of surah 18, al-Kahf
(The Cave), 9th or early 10th c.
-Quran as the holy text of Islam: Muhammad’s revelations—written in Arabic uniformly
-transcribing the text became a sacred act, and thus calligraphy an important art form
-Arabic expression: “Purity of writing is purity of the soul”
-prohibition against depicting representational image in religious art—Islamic art has a
rich vocabulary of aniconic (nonfigural) ornament
-naturally decorative nature of Arabic script
-use of calligraphic decoration on religious architecture, carpets, and handwritten
documents
-Arabic script predates Islam—written from right to left
-earliest preserved Qurans date to 8th c although it was codified in mid-7th c
-most early examples written in Kufic script—angular type of script
-written in consonants only—vowels can be indicated in red or yellow above or below
baseline to facilitate recitation
-note decorative band incorporating the chapter title in gold and ending in a palm-tree
finial—five text lines below
-this page from the Quran shows some of the important qualities of Islamic art as a
whole:
-importance of calligraphy throughout Islamic art—importance of decorative ornament,
eg plant ornament—Islamic art as aniconic in sacred contexts
-Quran and prayer as central to Muslim life and practicethe faithful pray five times
daily, facing towards Mecca
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 687-692
-Muslims had taken Jerusalem from the Byzantines in 638
-Dome of the Rock as “the first great achievement of Islamic architecture”
-erected by Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik
-houses the rock from which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into Heaven
(recorded in the Quran)—also traditional site of Adam’s burial, Abraham’s preparation to
sacrifice Isaac, and the Temple of Solomon, which had been destroyed by the Romans in
AD 70
-can use Dome of the Rock to make a point about Muslim attitudes towards Judaism and
Christianityaccording to Muslim tradition, Judaism and Christianity are also honored
religions, called “the People of the Book” becaue they also follow a revealed scripture—
incorporates many OT teachings—Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are acknowledged
as prophets and predecessors of Muhammad—Jesus not thought of as divine—
Muhammad seen as the ultimate purifier and perfecter of God’s laws—Muslims do not
have a hierarchy of priests, rabbis, etc.—note that text from Quran on the outside of the
Dome includes the passages that refer to Jesus (making it clear, however, that he’s not the
son of God in Islamic belief)
-archtitecture of the Dome of the Rock relates to this attitude—Islamic architects and
artists did draw from Jewish and Christian ideas and principles—domed octagon cf. San
Vitale in Ravenna—may have been inspired by neighboring Church of the holy
Sepulchre,which had been begun by Constantine
-here however greater emphasis on the dome: 75 ft high, 60 ft across, dominates the
structure below
-exterior has been much restored—16th c and later tiling replaces original mosaic—but
textile-like forms are typical of Islamic architectural ornamentation
-rich mosaic ornament of interior preserved—interior and exterior both given rich
decoration (unlike Byz architecture)
-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina
-built by Syrian artisans trained in Byzatine tradition
-concentric aisles enclose the rock—dome on high drum supported by an arcade
-more than 700 feet of Arabic inscriptions on the entire structure—one script on exterior,
one script on interior
-not clear exactly why the Dome was built—tradition about Muhammad’s ascension
dates from much later—as a visible sign of Islamic presence in Jerusalem, a rival to
Christian churches? commemoration of the Abrahamic nature of Islam? symbolic
rebuilding of Temple of Solomon?—it’s neither a mosque nor a mausoleum—
inscriptions on interior seem to refute the tenets of Christianity and assert Islam—setting
up Islam as a worthy successor to earlier religions—“And say: praise be to God, Who has
not taken to Himself a son, and Who has no partner in Sovereignty, nor has He any
protector on account of weakness” (against the Trinity and the Incarnation)
-roof is gold-plated lead
-12 columns arranged in circle around rock
Great Mosque, Cordoba, Spain, 8th-10th c.
-mosques: buildings for Muslim communal prayer
-in Muslim tradition, no hierarchy to lead services, but gathering to worship communally
at least on Fridays (Muslim Sabbath) became a tradition
-important that everyone faces east: in the mosque the qibla wall (which often includes
the mihrab) marks the direction
-prayer five times daily facing Mecca
-mosque architecture lends itself to Muslim ritual while also evoking the House of
Muhammad himself
-imam: leader of collective worship, stands on a pulpit (minbar) near the qibla wall
-mosque comes from an Arabic word meaning a place to bow down
-origins and meaning of the mihrab still much debated
-minarets: towers for the muezzin (crier) to call the faithful to prayer
-early mosques generally have hypostyle halls, prayer halls with roofs and many columns
-open courtyard—the sahn—leading to the hypostyle hall
-750: Abbasid dynasty overthrows the Umayyads—a survivor, Abd al-Rahman, fled
across North Africa into southern Spain (“al-Andalus”) where he established himself as
provincial ruler with support of those Muslims already there (had overtaken the Visigoths
in 711)—Umayyad dynasty in Spain ruled from capital in Cordoba until 1031
-set up on the site of a church, beginning in 784—repeatedly enlarged until 15th c, when
it was converted back to Christian use
-distinctively Spanish Islamic in style—marble columns and capitals taken from classical
buildings in the area
-two tiers of arches, one over the other, surmount the columns—upper tier springing from
rectangular posts rising from columns—double tiered design raises height of interior
space and provides ample light and air
-alternating voussoirs—horseshoe arches, originally a Roman form, favored by the
Visigoths, became associated with Islamic architecture in the West—even alternating
voussoirs build on Roman and Byz precedents
-Cordoba as important commercial and cultural center of the West
-hypostyle hall has 36 piers and 514 columns (wooden roof originally, now replaced by
vaults)
-caliph al-Hakam II (10th c) majorly renovated and added to the mosque, inc. expansion
of prayer hall—dome added covering area in front of mihrab—emphasizes axis leading to
the mihrab—rests on octagonal base of arcuated squinches and is crisscrossed by ribs
forming an intricate pattern—mosaic surfaces by Byzantine artists
Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq, 848-852
Ewer in the form of a bird, by Sulayman, 796
Textile fragment with lions and palm tree, from Uzbekistan, 8th c.
Later Islamic Art and Architecture:
Palace of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 1354-1391
Complex of Sultan Hasan, Cairo, Egypt, begun 1356
Mosque of Selim II, Edirne, Turkey, 1568-1575,
Architect: Sinan
cf. Hagia Sophia, Constantinople (Istanbul)
Mosaic mihrab from the Madrasa Imami, Isfahan, Iran,
ca. 1354 (now in Metropolitan Museum)
Brass inlaid basin by Muhammad Ibn al-Zayn (“Baptistère de Saint
Louis”), from Egypt, ca. 1300