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Early Islamic Art


For today's post, we'll be going back to c. 7th Century CE (601 - 700 CE) to uncover some bits of history of Islamic art, as you might have guessed from the title above. Now, this type of art has a lot of categories, and one way that historians have come to classify Islamic art is by grouping them according to the dynasties that reigned during the period of time when the works of art were produced. This included two main dynasties: the Umayyad Dynasty and the 'Abbasid Dynasty. First of all, it is important to note that these dynasties were a result of conquered lands that already had an existing culture and therefore, art. For instance, such artists at the time and place produced artworks that were under Sassanian (Persian) and Byzantine patronage (meaning sponsorship or philanthropic donations). Moreover, throughout the years, artists have been involved in the exchange of goods and ideas that could have further influenced the type of art created. There have been vast mixtures and influences of the coptic tradition of modern-day Egypt and Syria, influences of Sassanian metalwork and "naturalistic Byzantine mosaics depicting animals and plants". Hence, the first few examples of Islamic art were results of earlier forms and techniques as well as styles.

the umayyad and 'abbasid dynasties

After the death of the prophet Muhammad, the years that followed have been in its developmental stage; the Umayyad dynasty (661 - 750 CE) was considered to be the start of the development of Islamic art. Places of worship, or mosques, and books that contained the sacred scriptures, also known as the Quran, were needed by the Muslims. Thus, a lot of the first few works of art during the Umayyad dynasty were in the form of architectural designs and intricate calligraphic designs on the Quran.

Then, in 750 CE, the Umayyad dynasty was taken over by the 'Abbasid dynasty, one of the two great dynasties to have ruled in the Muslim world. This dynasty brought upon decorative stone, wood as well as ceramic objects.

types of islamic art

The main forms of Islamic art (that will also be showcased in a Pinterest board) are as follows:

  • Floral/Naturalistic
  • Geometric
  • Calligraphy

In calligraphy, not only does it hold high artistic value and skills, it also holds certain religious values as well. It is regarded as an important form of art because the Quran has promised blessings upon those who read and write the words of the sacred book. It is also said that the pen is symbolised as knowledge:

"Read! Your Lord is the Most Bounteous, Who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know" (Qur'an 96:3-5).

Just a little tidbit for ya.

As for geometric art, it is most prevalently seen and favoured in houses of worships because it encouraged spiritual reflection and observation. Plus, it also reflects the sophistication and popularity of the science of geometry in the Muslim world.

That's all for the history part of this topic, now on to the examples of early Islamic art! I have created a Pinterest Board and some of the pictures were taken from my visit to the Asians Civilisations Museum, some that I have at home as well as pinned pictures by other photographers on Pinterest. So, just CLICK HERE to get redirected now!