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Islamic Art and Artifacts – Virtual Tour

Islamic Art - Virtual Tour

Islamic Art and Artifacts – Virtual Tour

Islamic Art encompasses the visual arts produced in the Islamic world and covers a wide range of lands, periods, and genres.

Islamic Art includes Islamic architecture, Islamic calligraphy, Islamic miniature, Islamic glass, Islamic pottery, and textile arts such as carpets and embroidery

Islamic Religious art is represented by calligraphy, architecture, and furnishings of religious buildings, such as mosque fittings, woodwork, and carpets.

Islamic Secular artistic production also flourished in the Islamic world, especially in scientific instruments and household items and personal items.

Virtual Tour of Islamic Art

Highlights Tour of Islamic Art

Islamic Astrolabe

This cast copper alloy astrolabe with engraved decorations had many uses, including the determination of Qibla, the direction of prayer to Mecca. To use this device, it had to be hung up and aligned.

Depending on the task, different discs were inserted for different uses. This specific Astrolabe lists the coordinates of 86 locations between Morocco and China, the zodiac, and the names of 49 fixed stars.

The suspension apparatus of this astrolabe is richly decorated with symmetrical tendril decoration. The main body of the astrolabe consists of a disk, called the mater (mother), which is thick enough to hold one or more flat plates.

The Mater of this astrolabe bears the signature of the master Muhammad Zaman al-munadschim al-asturlabi on the back.

Islamic Prayer Niche

A Prayer Niche in Arabic is called a miḥrāb and indicates the direction of prayer to Mecca. This prayer niche comes from Kashan, Iran, and corresponds to the flat type characteristic of medieval Iran, only the columns appear semi-plastic.

This miḥrāb consists of 74 individual tiles, which were embossed with molds, painted, and glazed. Large blue inscriptions and patterns, as well as small turquoise fillings, stand out from the dominant chandelier pattern, which shimmers in different golden brown tones.

The blue clours were applied on the glaze, the luster painted on the finished glaze was added in a subsequent firing of the tiles.

The most prominent inscription is the Islamic creed between the capitals: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

The other inscriptions provide texts from the Koran, referring to the prayer and the Muslim faith. At the end of the large frame inscription, Master al-Ḥasan bin’Arabschāh has added his signature and date of manufacture.

Blue Qur’an

This leaf is from the 600 paged Blue Qur’an, which is a one-thousand-year-old Fatimid Caliphate Qur’an manuscript in Kufic calligraphy.

Created in North Africa for the Great Mosque of Kairouan, also known as the Mosque of Uqba in Tunisia, it is written in gold and decorated in silver on vellum colored with indigo. It is among the most famous works of Islamic calligraphy.

The original manuscript of approximately 600 pages was dispersed during the Ottoman period. Today most of it is located in the National Institute of Art and Archaeology Bardo National Museum in Tunis, with detached folios in various museums worldwide.

This leaf from the Blue Qur’an shows the Sura 30: 28–32. Each sura’s verses are inked in gold on rich indigo.  The Blue Qur’an was a display of the Fatimid dynasty’s wealth, power.

While emulating the purple parchment used for Byzantine Imperial manuscripts, it also sought to surpass their rival’s in the Byzantine Empire.

Marble Jar of Zayn al-Din Yahya Al-Ustadar

This large carved marble jar was used to store drinking water, intended for use at a Cairo mosque. 

The inscription on this jar states that it was an endowment by the amir Zain al‑Din Yahya al‑Ustadar, who served as steward and official during the reign of Sultan Jaqmaq (r. 1438–53) and later rulers of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.

Mamluk Sultanate

The Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517) was a medieval state with its capital in Cairo, Egypt, which lasted until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517.

At its height, the sultanate represented the zenith of medieval Egyptian political, economic, and cultural glory in the Islamic Golden Age.

The Damascus Room

The Damascus Room is a residential winter reception chamber, called a “Qa’a” typical of the late Ottoman period. The Qa’a is a roofed reception room found in the domestic architecture of affluent residences of the Islamic world.

It is the most common hall type in medieval Islamic domestic architecture. They were used to welcome male guests, where they would sit on the raised platform. The Damascus Room is a winter Qa’a from Damascus, Syria.

Poetry inscribed on its walls indicates that the patron was Muslim.  The inscription dates most of the woodwork elements in the room to A.D. 1707. However, alterations were made to the room in the later three centuries. 

The woodwork’s relief decorations are made of gesso covered with gold leaf, tin leaf with colored glazes, and bright egg tempera paint. This Ottoman-Syrian technique created a rich texture with varied surfaces that changed with changes in the lighting.

Desert Place of Mshatta Facade

The Mshatta Facade is the decorated part of the façade of the 8th century, Umayyad residential palace of Qasr Mshatta, which was one of the Desert Castles of Jordan.

The Mshatta Facade is a monument of early Islamic art and architecture, demonstrating early forms of the arabesque, millefleur, and animals carved in relief.

The decoration on the left side of the facade shows many animals among the foliar forms. On the right of the entranceway in the center, there are no animals.

The carved stone wall, in the Pergamon Museum, is only a small section of the full length of the facade, surrounding the main entrance.

Most of the palace wall was undecorated and remained in its original place in Jordan. The facade belonged to the Mshatta palace, which was excavated about 30 km south of the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Tile – Building Ceramic – Iran 13th – 14th Century

This rectangular quartz frit tile is from Iran and was created in the 13th – 14th Century. The relief shows a hunting scene, and between the two galloping riders is a deer. The riders have a golden halo surrounding their heads.

The hunter on the right holds the reins in his right hand and a sword in his left. The rider on the left is turning his body backward. He holds the bow and arrow in his hands and aims at the deer.

Different types of flowers and leaves surround the riders. Along the upper and lower edge runs a narrow border, which is decorated with repetitive floral motifs. This tile was part of a frieze that adorned the interior walls and is made of quartz frit.

Fritware refers to a type of pottery first developed in the Near East, a technique for “fritware” dating to c. 1300 AD, written by Abu’l Qasim, reports that quartz’s ratio to “frit-glass” to white clay is 10:1:1.

The Geometry of Islamic Design

Arabic Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings

Why Is Writing So Important in Islamic Art?



Islamic Geometric Patterns 

Masterpieces of Islamic art

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“Good health is a crown worn by the healthy than only the ill can see.”
– Islamic Proverb


Photo Credit: JOM

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