islamic decorations

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  • Introduction

    Before going deep in symbolism and content of Islamic Decorations lets take a look

    at the types of decorations that can be found in Islamic Art and Architecture:


    Calligraphy is the most highly regarded and

    most fundamental element of Islamic art. It

    is significant that the Quran, the book of

    God's revelations to the Prophet

    Muhammad, was transmitted in Arabic, and

    that inherent within the Arabic script is the

    potential for developing a variety of

    ornamental forms. While most works of art

    had legible inscriptions, not all Muslims

    would have been able to read them. One

    should always keep in mind, however, that

    calligraphy is principally a means to

    transmit a text, albeit in a decorative form.

    Folio from the "Blue Qur'an, Tunisia, probably Qairawan.

    In some cases, calligraphy is the dominant element in the decoration. In these examples, the

    artist exploits the inherent possibilities of the Arabic script to create writing as ornament. An

    entire word can give the impression of random brush strokes, or a single letter can develop

    into a decorative knot.

    Panel of four calligraphic tiles, 14thearly 15th century; Marinid, Morocco


    In this report we will discuss the decorations in Islamic architecture, from the types that

    could be found in Islamic architecture, such as calligraphy and geometry, we will give

    many examples for each type and defining the principles of these Islamic decorations.

    We will focus on the geometry type of decorations, and take about the symbols we found

    behind it, also the symbols behind some principles that we can clearly see in any type of

    Islamic decorations.

    Finally we are going to see if these decorations truly have symbolic meanings, and if these

    shapes can have a spiritual meanings, and if they are religious or anti-religious.

    Short brief

  • In other cases,

    highly esteemed


    works on paper

    are themselves

    ornamented and

    enhanced by

    their decorative

    frames or


    Folio from a Qur'an manuscript,

    13th14th century, Spain.

    Calligraphy can also become part of an

    overall ornamental program, clearly

    separated from the rest of the


    Helmet, late 15th century; Ak Koyunlu/Shivran,


    In some examples, calligraphy can be combined

    with vegetal scrolls on the same surface though

    often on different levels, creating an interplay of

    decorative elements.

    Islamic tile piece.

    Vegetal Patterns

    Moreover, Islamic art is iconoclastic,

    especially in the mosque and other

    religious spaces - the art that contains

    the human figure is rarely used.

    Vegetal patterns employed alone or in

    combination with the other major types of

    ornamentcalligraphy, geometric pattern,

    and figural representationadorn a vast number

    of buildings, manuscripts, objects, and textiles,

    produced throughout the Islamic world. Unlike

    calligraphy, whose increasingly popular use as

    ornament in the early Islamic Arab lands

    represented a new development, vegetal patterns

    and the motifs they incorporate were drawn from

    existing traditions of Byzantine culture in the

    eastern Mediterranean and Sasanian Iran.

    Tile panel with wavy-vine design, Ottoman period (ca. 1299

    1923), 16th17th century, Syria, probably Damascus.

  • The early centuries of the Islamic era saw

    the initial adoption of semi naturalistic

    pre-Islamic motifs and patterns, followed

    by widespread and highly diverse

    experimentation adapting these forms to

    suit the aesthetic interests and tastes of

    the new Muslim patrons.

    It was not until the medieval period

    (tenthtwelfth centuries) that a highly

    abstract and fully developed Islamic

    style emerged, featuring that most

    original and ubiquitous pattern often

    known as "arabesque."

    Tile, Ottoman period (ca. 12991923), early 15th century,

    Turkey, Bursa.

    Islamic arabesque and calligraphy Persian architecture,


    Figural Representations

    With the spread of Islam outward from the

    Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, the

    figurative artistic traditions of the newly

    conquered lands profoundly influenced the

    development of Islamic art. The Islamic

    resistance to the representation of living

    beings ultimately stems from the belief that

    the creation of living forms is unique to God,

    and it is for this reason that the role of images

    and image makers has been controversial. As

    ornament, however, figures were largely

    devoid of any larger significance and perhaps

    therefore posed less challenge.

    Mushatt Palace and is located in Amman, Jordan.

  • As with other forms of Islamic ornamentation,

    artists freely adapted and stylized basic human

    and animal forms, giving rise to a great

    variety of figural-based designs. Figural

    motifs are found on the surface decoration of

    objects or architecture, as part of the woven or

    applied patterns of textiles, and, most rarely,

    in sculptural form.

    Velvet fragment, 16th century; Safavid, Iran.

    In some cases, decorative images are

    closely related to the narrative painting

    tradition, where text illustrations

    provided sources for ornamental themes

    and motifs. As for manuscript illustration,

    miniature paintings were integral parts of

    these works of art as visual aids to

    the text, therefore no restrictions were


    A further category of fantastic figures,

    from which ornamental patterns were

    generated, also existed. Some fantastic

    motifs, such as harpies (female-headed

    birds) and griffins (winged felines), were

    drawn from pre-Islamic mythological

    sources, whereas others were created

    through the visual manipulation of figural

    forms by artists.

    Two Lovers, 1630; Safavid, Isfahan, Iran.

    Harpies Molded horse and

    rider with cheetah Incense burner

  • Geometric Patterns

    While geometric ornamentation may have reached a

    pinnacle in the Islamic world, the sources for both the

    shapes and the intricate patterns already existed in late

    antiquity among the Greeks, Romans, and Sasanians in

    Iran. Islamic artists appropriated key elements from the

    classical tradition, then complicated and elaborated

    upon them in order to invent a new form of decoration

    that stressed the importance of unity and order. The

    significant intellectual contributions of Islamic

    mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists were

    essential to the creation of this unique new style.

    Consisting of, or generated from, such simple shapes as

    the circle and the square, geometric patterns were

    combined, duplicated, interlaced, and arranged in

    intricate combinations, thus becoming one of the most

    distinguishing features of Islamic art

    In its repetition and complexity,

    it offers the possibility of infinite

    growth and can accommodate

    the incorporation of other types

    of ornamentation as well. In

    terms of their abstractness,

    repetitive motifs, and symmetry,

    geometric patterns have much in

    common with the so-called

    arabesque style seen in many

    vegetal designs. Calligraphic

    ornamentation also appears in

    conjunction with geometric


    The main element of this design consists of four squares in an

    overlapping rotation. These are derived from a circle (a) taken

    through the center of the repeat. A slightly larger circle of the

    dimension shown at (b) gives rise to the key values of (c) and (d),

    which are then applied to the radial and square elements, to points

    (e) and (f); at the middle of the repeat (g) and at the periphery (h).

    This design is completed with the following resolutions, a (45

    Angle) cross at (i),(45 Angle) diamond segments based on value (d)

    at (i) and a (6o Angle) diamond at (k). Writing box, late 16thearly 17th century,

    India, Gujarat or Sindh.

    Dado panel, first half of 15th century;

    Mamluk, Egypt.

  • Now we know that Four types of ornamentation can be found in Islamic art and

    architecture, calligraphy, vegetal patterns, figural representations and Geometric


    Geometry is one the most important elements of Islamic art and architecture, lets zoom

    in to Geometry in Islamic architecture to know more about it.


    The basic instruments for constructing geometric

    designs were a compass and ruler. The circle became the

    foundation for Islamic pattern, in part a consequence of

    refinements made to the compass by Arabic astronomers

    and cartographers. The circle is often an organizing

    element underlying vegetal designs; it plays an

    important role in calligraphy, which the Arabs defined

    as the geometry of the line; and it structures all the

    complex Islamic patterns using geometric shapes. These

    patterns have three basic characteristics:

    1. They are made up of a small number of

    repeated geometric elements. The simple

    forms of the circle, square, and straight