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Islamic Decorative Arts

An archway decorated in typical Islamic style. Note the encorperation of calligraphy and the horror vacuiIt is said that Mohammed said,
"Do not try to depict the Lord or his creatures. Paint only trees, flowers, inanimate objects. For on the day of judgment those who have been painted will come to claim their souls from the artist, who, unable to satisfy them, will experience the torment of eternal damnation."
For this reason, most Islamic art is based on intricate patterns, calligraphy, and some plant-life. However, some non-religious art did contain such imagery. The main point of this art is to be interpretive and bring you as close as possible to Allah. This geometric art form is known as arabesque. It is frequently found as decoration on buildings such as mosques. Though it does not directly show figures as Christian icons do, this art is deeply symbolic and in essence has the same purpose. The reasons for this style of art are not limited just by this religious belief, however. There is also the fact that the designs are very mathmatical and this was a very important branch of study at this time as well. Arabic writing, too, is very beautiful, so it is no surprise that it is encorperated into art!Arabic calligraphy in the shape of a bird
Just as this all could be represented on walls, it would be represented on carpets too. Carpetweaving is a particularly important art form for several reasons. One, carpets are very portable and could be carried easily on long journeys without being ruined very much so they were an easily transported source of wealth for weavers. Two, they could be used as beautiful decoration on walls and floors. Third, and probably most important, is that they are used in worship. Muslims pray on these carpets, and symbols on them dictate where Mecca is. In this way, carpets became an integral part of this society.



PolykleitosRoman copy of The Doryphoros of Polykleitos
originally Bronze
Classical period
440 BC

Subject: The subject of this work is considered to be an ideal human male athlete, ready for action. Ancient Greeks had very strong notions on perfection, and were very fixated on man, so what better subject than a perfect man? Polykleitos divided the human form into four equal parts, and then moved some in turn. One arm is at rest, one is holding a spear. One leg is supporting weight, the other is not. The head faces the opposite direction as the chest. These features serve to provide a balance between movement and rest which shows this perfect male at his full potential.

The Artist's Work: The skilled artist responsible for this work would certainly have had an athletic male model, who he perfected to a further extent in this statue. He probably would have used the lost-wax technique which involves making an original of stone or clay, covering it with wax and then heated to remove this wax. After this, bronze would be poured into the empty layer to produce an exact replica of the original. These bronze sculptures were able to be freestanding and delicate, unlike the stone statues which required extra support to allow their massive weight.


Reaction: At first glance, this sculpture did not impress me particularly. I suppose I would liken this to not being drawn in instantly to a painting that looks exactly like a photograph. It takes a while to grasp the concept that this was carved from a model, not taken like some kind of 3-dimentional photograph. Once my mind gets around this, I really appreciate the work. Nothing looks 'off' at all about this statue. The athlete looks like he could truly leap into action at any moment, even though he is not in the middle of an action. Once I learned about Polykleitos's thinking of having his arms and legs mirror each other and convey possible movement, I was even more astonished. He has accomplished this so well! He looks so relaxed, but in a very natural way. He has a distinct S-curve to his spine and his hands look incredibly natural; they do not look awkward at all. His face does not convey much emotion and thus doesn't distract me from the true point of the sculpture which was to show the true potential of this athlete. This sculpture makes me think very deeply about the human form, and even brought up wonder regarding the creation of man. For a sculpture to convey so much beauty as to cause me to think about matters of the divine, it must now rank among my favourites.