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4 Tutorials that teach Islamic Ceramics, Textiles and Calligraphy
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Islamic Ceramics, Textiles and Calligraphy

Islamic Ceramics, Textiles and Calligraphy

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore ceramics and textiles as significant artistic objects in Islamic culture.

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Tutorial

Islamic Ceramics, Textiles, and Calligraphy

An overview of Islamic ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome to you this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives or the things we're going to learn today will be listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain why small objects and textiles are important to the Islamic tradition, and explain the importance of calligraphy in Islamic art.

The key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Kufic script. It's the oldest form of calligraphy. The first copies of the Qur'an were written in Kufic script.

Samarkand Ware, an Islamic ceramic style characterized with decorations in green, yellow, pink, and brown. Lusterware, Middle Eastern in origin, a type of pottery decorated with glassy, metallic lusters. And miniature, a small scaled version, i.e. Painting illuminated text.

And the big idea for today is that with the absence of figural representations in Islamic art, production of ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy became major outlets for artistic expression. So today, we'll be looking at examples of art from the 11th century to the early part of the 13th century. And the works of art in this lesson come from within modern day Iran.

So with the exception of architecture, the production of large public works was essentially non-existent to the best of my knowledge given the Islamic view on representational art. Now this made the production of smaller objects and textiles of particular importance as a form of artistic expression and as a form of personal art. Now the representation of human and animal forms isn't expressly forbidden with the exceptions of Allah and Muhammad, and are typically acceptable for personal works of art. In particular, the artwork captured as miniatures in the traditional story booklets typically owned by wealthier Muslims.

The production of textiles is also deeply rooted in the culture of Islam. These are figurative canvases for the display of beautiful arabesque patterns and they are of particular importance in their use as prayer rugs. In the absence of representational art, calligraphy became one of the primary forms of artistic expression. Calligraphy in Islam is symbolically a very important art form, particularly the Kufic script, which was used to record the first copies of the Koran.

So an example of calligraphy used as decorative enhancement can be seen on this example of Samarkand Ware ceramic work. It's, essentially, a bowl with a decorative Kufic border. And the border reads planning before work protects you from regret. Prosperity and peace.

Now it doesn't protect you from prosperity and peace. There's a pause there in between. All right, moving on.

Another type of ceramic work is called Lusterware. And this example called a Macy jug is a striking example from the early 13th century. And there are two layers. There's a solid inner layer that holds the liquid and an open, decorative, outer layer that depicts harpies, sphinxes, and quadrupeds, which are just four-legged animals. An interesting bit of information is that encircling the bottom in a lighter blue band, which is very difficult to see here, is a love poem written by an anonymous poet.

That brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain why small objects and textiles are important to the Islam tradition? And can you explain the importance of calligraphy in Islamic art?

Once again, the big idea for today is that with the absence of figural representations in Islamic art, for the most part, the production of ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy became major outlets for artistic expression. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. See you next time.

Terms to Know
  • Kufic Script

    Oldest form of calligraphy; the first copies of the Qur’an were written in Kufic script.

  • Lusterware

    Middle Eastern in origin, a type of pottery decorated with glassy, metallic lusters.

  • Miniature

    A small scaled version i.e. painting, illuminated text.

  • Samarkand Ware

    An Islamic ceramic style characterized with decorations in green, yellow, pink and brown.