ISLAMIC ART SUBJECT GUIDE

I. Introduction

Rationale and Context:
Islamic art has the potential to teach students about Muslim societies in ways that can illuminate not only the aesthetic traditions of those societies but also aspects of devotional life, trade, leisure, literature, philosophy, gender, science, and much more. The diversity of Islamic art across time and place demonstrates in a clear and compelling way the cultural differences among and within various Muslim societies, and helps students to understand the connections and distinctions among the Arab world, the Middle East, and Muslim cultures. In addition, bringing the artistic traditions of Muslim societies into the classroom offers an engaging and effective way to approach the broader subject to those students who learn best through visual and creative modes, rather than textual or oral instruction. While Islamic art might be seen as a peripheral subject, particularly in the social studies or language classroom, it can be a key component in fostering a deeper understanding of the complexity of Muslim societies and their relationships with one another and with other cultures.

Title: Learning through Creativity: Ali Asani on the Role of Art in the Classroom
Author: Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University
Material Type: Video
Link: https://vimeo.com/32933696
Annotation: One important strategy for teaching the arts is to have students create, not just learn about a particular tradition. This five-minute video from Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning features Dr. Ali Asani’s use of creative art projects with undergraduates as a means of getting them to understand the role of religion in Islamic cultures more intuitively.

Essential Questions:
What is Islamic about Islamic art?
How can Islamic art help us to understand Muslim cultures?
How does Islamic art show the connections among and diversity of Muslim societies?

II. Background Essay:

What is Islamic art? Any definition of what we call Islamic art has to take into account the confusion generally caused by the name, for the category “Islamic art” is unusual. Most categories of art are named according to geography (Chinese art), time period (medieval art), style (Cubism), or a mix (Italian Renaissance art). Islamic art is not restricted to a region, or a period, or a school, or a movement, or a dynasty, but is the visual culture of a variety of places and times where the people (or at least their rulers) espoused a particular religion. Two major issues to understand are that Islamic art isn’t necessarily Islamic, and that it comes in forms that many people don’t think of when they think of “art.”

One standard definition, from art historians Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, is “the art made by artists or artisans whose religion was Islam, for patrons who lived in predominantly Muslim lands, or for purposes that are restricted or peculiar to a Muslim population or a Muslim setting.” Note that allimportant word or: despite the name, Islamic art is not necessarily religious in nature—much of it was produced for secular purposes and in secular contexts. Nor was it even necessarily created by or for Muslims, although it was created within the shared visual culture of lands dominated by Muslim rulers.
Most of what is called Islamic art is from the early heartlands of the Muslim world—West Asia, North Africa and Spain, and Central Asia. Certain visual elements—particularly surfaces highly decorated with calligraphy, geometric design, and stylized vegetation—are broadly shared across this region from the early Islamic period until the 19th century, and are often referenced by contemporary works as well. Art and architecture from societies further away, to which Islam arrived in later centuries, whether in subSaharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China or Europe, often have fewer of these shared elements—does that mean this is not Islamic art? Without assuming that there is a single correct answer to that question, it is interesting to see in what ways diverse Muslim communities may both reference the traditions of the early heartlands of Islam and also incorporate elements of local visual culture.

Another important issue that should be raised is the use of figural representation in Islamic art. It is often claimed that Islam forbids the creation of human or animal forms; however, while figural art is generally absent from mosques, Islamic art is full of representations of people and animals in more secular contexts, in books, textiles, household objects, architectural decoration, etc.

Mosques are often seen as the quintessential symbol of Islamic architecture, with a shared functional vocabulary of elements like the mihrab (niche indicating direction of prayer), minbar (pulpit), ablution fountain, and open congregational space (often roofed with a dome). Mosques also display a great geographical variety, however, and reflect both local building traditions and aesthetics. Muslim societies have strong traditions of secular architecture as well—palaces, homes, bazaars, hospitals, fountains, gardens, and the like—that may share some aspects of mosque architecture and decoration but which also reveal a broader aesthetic palette.

When we think of the Western artistic tradition, we think of things designed to be looked at and admired: relatively large paintings on museum walls, sculptures in galleries, the facades of grand buildings. However, while architecture is just as important in Islamic societies as it is in the West, visual representation for public display is a more limited aspect of Islamic art, and sculpture is even more rare. Instead, the artistic traditions of the core Islamic lands typically focus on objects often considered the “minor” arts or handicrafts in the West: luster ceramic vessels and tiles, knotted carpets and brocaded textiles, enameled glass, the arts of the book (marbled paper, illumination, miniature painting, calligraphy, etc.), gardens and fountains, inlaid metalwork, etc. The fact that many of these artisanal creations are objects designed for daily use and are often not signed by their creators as paintings in the Western tradition are does not make them any less worthy of being called masterpieces.

While there are some recognizable elements that connect much of Islamic art across time and space, it should be recognized as a dynamic tradition, incorporating new ideas from preexisting local cultures as well as neighboring cultures with which it came into contact. Comparing structures like the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan, the Great Mosque in Djenne, the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech, the Alhambra in Granada, the tomb of Janangir in Lahore, and the Niujie Mosque in Beijing reveals that while Islamic art evolved differently in different areas to create new forms and aesthetic ideals, it still connected to elements of a shared artistic tradition. Today, this tradition is still evolving, and while some contemporary artists avoid referring to the visual canon of Islamic art, others choose to reinterpret and reinvigorate it.

 

III. Annotated Resource Guide:

A. Defining Islamic Art

Title: Introduction: Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Author: Linda Komaroff, Curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.lacma.org/islamic_art/intro.htm
Annotation: LACMA’s definition of Islamic art incorporates both the mainstream idea of an overall sense of connection among works of Islamic art and a recognition of its regional diversity. The full website focuses on not only exposing readers to the fine examples of Islamic art in the museum’s collection, but on using its explanation of those pieces to allow visitors to discover “the rich historical and cultural traditions from which this art emerged.”

Title: The Nature of Islamic Art
Author: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/orna/hd_orna.htm
Annotation: The definition of Islamic art given on the excellent Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum is a traditional one that insists that Islamic art has unified and distinctive attributes related to the religion itself: “As it is not only a religion but a way of life, Islam fostered the development of a distinctive culture with its own unique artistic language that is reflected in art and architecture throughout the Muslim world.” Advanced students could compare this conventional definition to LACMA’s more nuanced definition or to the sophisticated examination by Bloom and Blair in “The Mirage of Islamic Art” cited below.

Title: The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on the Study of an Unwieldy Field
Authors: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom. Originally published in The Art Bulletin, 85(1), 2003, 152-84.
Material Type: Downloadable file
Link: https://arthistoriography.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/blairbloomdoc.pdf
Annotation: This long essay by leading art historians Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom challenges traditional definitions of Islamic art. It discusses the origins of the label “Islamic art,” as well as debates in the field among universalists who see Islamic art as a coherent whole and those who would subdivide the artistic traditions of Muslim societies in different ways. The article can be usefully excerpted and compared to the more conventional definition given by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, cited above.

Title: Islamic Art
Author: Leighton House Museum, London
Material Type: Website
Link: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leightonarabhall/collecting3.html
Annotation: This concise and informative essay brings together both a good short definition of Islamic art with an emphasis on its secular and historical context and the artistic achievements in glazed pottery, metalwork, book painting, textiles, glassware and woodwork. There is a good discussion of the debate over figural representation. Be sure to check out the virtual tour of the Arab Hall, in which Leighton recreated many of the features of buildings he saw in the Middle East.

B. Major Characteristics of Islamic Art

Title: Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World
Author: Unity Productions Foundation
Material Type: Video
Link: http://www.upf.tv/films/islamic-art/watch/
Annotation: This beautiful and very accessible film journeys through a variety of spaces and times to take a fresh look at interesting themes in Islamic art, including The Word (calligraphy), Space, Ornament (incorporating both geometric and vegetal designs), Color and Water. It looks both at monumental architecture and at small objects crafted of metal, ceramics, wood and paper. The film can be screened online an unlimited number of times over 30 days in the highest resolution supported by your device through UPF Theater for $3.99, or it can be screened on Apple iTunes or Google Play for a separate fee.

Title: Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher’s Guide
Author: Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Downloadable file
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/teacherResources/islam.pdf
Annotation: This excellent resource highlights three categories of artistic expression is Islamic art: the art of the book, the art of the mosque, and the art of the portable object. It explores these subjects through objects from the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s historic collections. There are background articles, activities, objects and descriptions, and lesson plans for a variety of grade levels from elementary to high school. While the emphasis is historical, the Authors have incorporated contemporary perspectives through interviews with Muslims describing the place of their faith in their lives and upbringing, including a journal kept by a young woman during Ramadan. While this guide was produced in 2002, it remains relevant and useful.

1. Calligraphy

Title: Calligraphy in Islamic Art
Author: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cali/hd_cali.htm
Annotation: This short article with accompanying objects and descriptions makes the point that calligraphy acts as text, as talisman, and as ornament. The objects include pottery, work on paper, metalware, glas and textiles from a variety of times and places, showcasing a variety of calligraphic styles.

Title: Islamic Art Spots: Calligraphy
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities Muslim Journeys project
Material Type: Website featuring video and related primary sources
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/219
Annotation: This clear and cogent video by D. Fairchild Ruggles explains the importance and development of Arabic calligraphy, using examples from a variety of Qurans, coins, architecture, textiles, and ceramics, from very early works to contemporary art. She makes an interesting comparison between the expectations of a congregation’s knowledge in Christian art using images and Islamic mosque decoration using calligraphic text.

Title: Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art
Author: Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/inscribing/index2.html
Annotation: This fascinating exhibit by the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and the Fowler Museum at UCLA juxtaposes a wide variety of writing systems in African art and daily life, much of it contemporary.
This is a great opportunity to compare the use of Arabic script calligraphy with those in other language systems–a fascinating reminder that Islamic art is not the only aesthetic that celebrates the word. The Word Play section is particularly interesting, as are the educational materials on exploring scripts and symbols.

2. Geometric Design

Title: Geometry
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities Muslim Journeys project
Material Type: Website featuring video and related primary sources
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/224
Annotation: This fascinating video looks at the role of mathematics and geometry in calculating the direction of prayer, directions and distance for navigation, and for aesthetic enjoyment. D. Fairchild Ruggles shows how incredibly complicated mathematical designs were made from the simplest materials by expert artisans. In one segment, she discusses the geometry of domes, including the use of complex muqarnas as a visual and intellectual distraction from strict function.

Title: Islamic Art and Geometric Design: Activities for Learning
Author: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Material Type: Downloadable File
Linkhttp://www.metmuseum.org/~/media/Files/Learn/For%20Educators/Publications%20for%20Educators/Islamic_Art_and_Geometric_Design.pdf
Annotation: The Metropolitan has put together a great resource that both examines the role of geometric design in Islamic art and explains how such designs were created, with objects from the collection providing exemplars. The publication then provides a number of intriguing activities that enable students to recreate a variety of increasingly complex designs with only a straight edge and a compass. The Met’s website also has a good, short introductory essay on geometric design with examples from the museum’s collection at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geom/hd_geom.htm.

Title: Pattern in Islamic Art
Author: David Wade
Material Type: Website
Link: http://patterninislamicart.com
Annotation: This enormous archive of over 4000 photographs of patterns from a wide cross-section of Muslim societies is searchable in a variety of ways, and also offers slideshows of 50 representative forms from each of several countries. It also offers background notes, geometric analyses of some of the patterns, and an excellent glossary and bibliography.

Title: Islamic Geometric Patterns
Author: Eric Broug
Material Type: Book with accompanying CD-ROM
Citation: Broug, Eric. Islamic Geometric Patterns. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008. Print.
Annotation: Broug describes how artisans used traditional methods of measurement to create complex geometric compositions based on squares, hexagons, pentagons, etc. He provides clear directions and examples so that one can recreate classical examples or create a new pattern using only a ruler and a compass, incorporating three progressive levels of difficulty. The book features geometric patterns from some of the most well-known masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture, including the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the Mustansiriya Madrasa in Baghdad, and the tomb of Bibi Jawindi in Pakistan. There is a short example of Broug’s method in an article by Alex Bellos in the Guardian, Titled “Muslim rule and compass: the magic of Islamic geometric design.” Or you can watch Broug’s excellent short video on the Complex Geometry of Islamic Design.

Title: The Tiles of Infinity
Author: Sebastian R. Prange
Material Type: Website (also print publication: Aramco World 60/5, September/October 2009)
Linkhttp://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/200905/the.tiles.of.infinity.htm
Annotation: Physicist Peter Lu discovered in 2005 that the elaborate geometric patterns in Islamic tilework from about 1200 are based on patterns that modern mathematicians have only recently learned how to describe. In 1974, Sir Roger Penrose showed how two shapes can be used to create non-repeating tiling, called quasicrystal structures. The relationship of Islamic geometry to these new discoveries in mathematics, as well as the connection of both to the golden ratio described by Leonardo da Vinci as well as mathematicians from ancient Egypt onward. A fascinating insight into the genius of Islamic artisans.

Title: Tilemaker: Mosaic Tile Generator App
Author: QFI
Material Type: Web-based application
Link: http://tilemaker.arabicalmasdar.org/
Annotation: QFI’s Tilemaker is a mosaic tile generator app that allows students to explore geometric design and to craft their own digital tiles using symmetry, tessellation and calligraphy. The engaging interface is easy to use, and the artwork produced is printable and can also be displayed online in QFI’s gallery.

3. Vegetal Design

Title: Vegetal Patterns in Islamic Art
Author: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vege/hd_vege.htm
Annotation: A variety of objects from the museum’s collection illustrate the concepts in the short but lucid background essay which tracks the development of vegetal patterns from Byzantine antecedents through an experimental diversity that culminated in a fully developed “Islamic style,” which was then further influenced by Chinese motifs and patterns after the Mongol invasion and a later naturalism. The Authors make the point that “with the exception of the garden and its usual reference to paradise, vegetal motifs and patterns in Islamic art are largely devoid of symbolic meaning.”

Title: Teachers’ resource: Exploring plant-based design through the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art
Author: Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, Victoria and Albert Museum
Material Type: Website with associated downloadable files
Link: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/teachers-resource-exploring-plant-based-design-through-the-jameel-gallery-of-islamic-art/
Annotation: While this rich resource is built around a site visit by students to the Jameel Gallery, much of the content stands alone and can be used in conjunction with the online images of object from the V&A’s collection. It includes articles and powerpoint presentations on plant-based design, as well as a variety of activities to complete, culminating in a design challenge to design a symmetrical repeating pattern incorporating vegetal design that can be used on a set of plates or mugs or a textile or wallpaper.

4. Figural Representation

Title: Figural Representation in Islamic Art
Author: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/figs/hd_figs.htm
Annotation: Another short, clear essay on Islamic art from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, arguing that “Although the often cited opposition in Islam to the depiction of human and animal forms holds true for religious art and architecture, in the secular sphere, such representations have flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures.”

Title: The Koran Does Not Forbid Images of the Prophet
Author: Christiane Gruber
Material Type: Website (and print article, published in Newsweek 9 January 2015)
Link: http://www.newsweek.com/koran-does-not-forbid-images-prophet-298298
Annotation: In contrast to traditional claims that Islam does not allow figural art in religious contexts, Dr. Chistiane Gruber carefully documents the development of religious arguments on figural representation and depictions of the Prophet in Islamic scholarship, and includes a variety of historical depictions. It should be noted that this article was published in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that were aimed at a satirical magazine that published derogatory images of Muhammad. The existence of religious imagery and depictions of Muhammad in an Islamic religious context does not, of course, mean that all Muslims are comfortable with pictoral representations of Muhammd, or that contemporary antagonistic depictions of the Prophet are not deeply offensive to many Muslims. Nor, of course, does it legitimize violence against those who create such depictions.

Title: Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher’s Guide
Author: Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Downloadable file
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/teacherResources/islam.pdf
Annotation: The sections on the art of the book and the art of the portable object focus on several objects in the collection of the Freer and Sackler Galleries that feature figural representation, from a painting of a school scene to a basin with both Islamic and Christian imagery. Be sure to check out higher resolution images of these objects on the Smithsonian’s website as well.

Title: Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings
Author: Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/shahnama/
Annotation: This online version of a 2011 exhibit at the Freer/Sackler Galleries on the Persian epic poem allows visitors to click on any image to see it close up. It has an overview of the text, but the real treat here
is the variety of featured images from the collection.

Title: Visual Poetry: Persian manuscript painting
Author: Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/VisualPoetry/default.htm
Annotation: Another online exhibit from the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Visual Poetry exhibit traces the development of imagery in Persian manuscript paintings and their relationship to the text from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

Title: Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran
Author: Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/worlds-within-worlds/intro.asp
Annotation: This online exhibit of Mughal painting contains a fine gallery of images, into which viewers can zoom to examine small details of each painting. In addition, some of the images also contain audio recordings of readings of the texts which the images illustrate.

Title: Miniatures from the Topkapi Museum
Author: Bilkent University Department of History
Material Type: Website
Link: http://kilyos.ee.bilkent.edu.tr/~history/topkapi1.html
Annotation: Bilkent University hosts the online collection of the Topkapi Museum, and has a particularly fine collection of paintings. While Ottoman miniatures depicting actual events form a significant portion of the collection, there are also early works from Baghdad and Mosul, as well as many works from Persia. It includes scientific works, Kalila wa Dimna fables, Nizami’s Khamsa, Firdawsi’s Shahname, and Ottoman works like the Süleymanname and the Selimname, which record the exploits of individual sultans.

C. Major Categories of Islamic Art

1. Architecture

Title: Mosques and Religious Architecture
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities Muslim Journeys project
Material Type: Website featuring video and related primary sources
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/220
Annotation: This video describes and Links various styles of mosque, from Spain to Egypt, Mali to Turkey, Morocco to Indonesia to Illinois. Dr. Ruggles discusses both the common elements of mosques dicatated by Islamic doctrine and tradition and the local influences of architecture and building styles that affect the style of regional mosque architecture and decoration.

Title: Islamic Architecture
Author: Columbia University
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ha/html/islamic.html
Annotation: This site from Columbia University problematizes the idea of a unified “Islamic” architecture in the very short introduction, and then gives a wonderful series of interactive mosque plans and 360- degree panoramas of mosques and other sites from Spain, Turkey, Iran, Yemen and Mali.

Title: Virtual Walking Tours
Author: Aramco World
Material Type: Website (also available as CD)
Linkhttp://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/200604/alhambra/alltours.htm
Annotation: Aramco World’s walking tours allow visitors to experience each of three major Islamic architectural masterpieces as though they are walking through the space. You can turn and zoom in inside each of dozens of 360-degree panoramic images in each tour. The tours encompass the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain; the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul; and the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Each tour features a virtual audio tour that walk you through each of the panoramic images.

Title: Islamic Architecture of the Middle East
Author: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/videos-islamic-architecture-of-the-middle-east/
Annotation: The V&A produced a series of short videos to give visitors to the museum a sense of the architectural setting for which many of the objects in the Islamic art galleries were made. There is a set of three videos on palaces (the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain; the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey; and the Palace Complex in Isfahan, Iran) as well as four videos on important mosques in the region (the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria; the Masjid-i Imam in Isfahan, Iran; the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey; and the mosque of Sultan Hassan in Cairo, Egypt). Be sure to also see the museum’s other Islamic Middle East resources.

Title: Ottoman Women and the Visual Arts
Author: Turkish Cultural Foundation
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.turkishculture.org/lifestyles/turkish-culture-portal/the-women/ottoman-women-510.htm?type=1
Annotation: This article looks at architecture and at textile production from the perspective of Ottoman women as patrons of architecture as well as of producers and consumers of textiles. The overview gives a good sense of the power and significance of elite women in contributing to the architectural environment of the Ottoman Empire.

Title: Mingling Cultures in Early Islamic Art
Author: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Material Type: Video
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPYUiuryfBI&index=5&list=PLD-p8yovJgeqNCvqfc7wEj-idHLN_y6Lb
Annotation: This video is part of a series associated with an exhibition between the State Museum of Berlin and on Early Capitals of Islamic Culture. This short piece examines the decorations on the gate to the Mshatta Palace, an Umayyad desert palace in Jordan, which reflect an attempt to bring together different cultural elements into a unified whole. Other interesting videos in this series include “Cobalt Blue between Persia and China,” “Spreading the Secret: Lustre-Pottery Technique,” and “From Images to Letters: Early Islamic Coinage.”

Title: Islamic Architecture
Author: Islamic Arts and Architecture
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.islamicart.com/main/architecture/intro.html
Annotation: This site incorporates personal ruminations about both the external aspect and the inner space of Islamic architectural traditions. It looks at both the decorative arts in an architectural context, and at architecture as an expression of power and identity. One interesting section talks about the influence of Islamic architecture on the West. Disappointingly, the gallery talks about a variety of buildings and objects, but has only small thumbnail images.

2. Gardens and Water

Title: Islamic Art Spots: Gardens
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Library Association, and Twin Cities Public Television
Material Type: Online Video and Website
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/222
Annotation: This video, part of the Islamic Art Spots series within the Bridging Cultures project of the National Endowment of the Humanities, looks at Islamic gardens as both a symbolic parallel to paradise and as a representation of human beings’ productive interaction with and enjoyment of the earth. Ruggles also shows how representations of flowers and gardens brought the refreshing ambiance of the garden indoors on textiles and architectural decoration. The website also Links to related primary sources, including a Qur’anic verse describing paradise and the ruler Babur on his construction of a garden

Title: Islamic Art: In Paradise There Is Always Water
Author: Michael Wolfe
Material Type: Downloadable article (on Huffington Post)
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-wolfe/islamic-art-in-paradise-there-is-always-water_b_1647395.html
Annotation: Michael Wolfe, co-executive producer of UPF’s excellent film “islamic Art,” writes a short piece about the important practical and symbolic functions of water in Islamic architecture and art. The article includes a 4- minute segment from the film on water. The full film can also be screened online an unlimited number of times over 30 days in the highest resolution supported by your device through UPF Theater for $3.99, or it can be screened on Apple iTunes or Google Play for a separate fee.

3. The Arts od the Book

Title: Arts of the Book and Miniature Painting
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Library Association, and Twin Cities Public Television
Material Type: Online Video and Website
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/225
Annotation: Dr. Ruggles here describes the importance of books, albums, and book painting in Muslim societies, and examines a number of different examples in detail. Includes as a primary source a 10th-century bookseller’s description of how books were transmitted and copied

Title: Muslim Life in Miniature: A Visual Tour through Two Persian Paintings
Author: Barbara Petzen and Naghmeh Sohrabi
Material Type: Downloadable file and website
Link: http://www.meoc.us/uncategorized/muslim-life-in-miniature-a-visual-tour-through-two-persian-paintings#more-1457
Annotation: In this activity produced for the Middle East Outreach Council’s Perspectives curriculum newsletter, students walk through two impressive Persian paintings, examining both their historical context and the minute details the artist represents. Follow-on activities can include having students create their own miniature paintings in the same style, reflecting their culture, heritage, daily environment and activities

Title: The Arts of the Book in the Islamic World
Author: Marika Sardar, New York University
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/isbk/hd_isbk.htm
Annotation: This short essay describes the process of making a book in the 16th century, from making the paper, ink, pens and pigments, to copying the text and creating the illustrations to binding the pages. It also makes the important point that books were so highly valued that they were royal status symbols and financial investments.

Title: Tughra of Suleiman the Magnificent in “A History of the World in 100 Objects”
Author: Neil MacGregor, Director of The British Museum, and the BBC
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/a_history_of_the_world/objects.aspx#71
Annotation: The website offers and image and a description of the signature seal of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (also known as the Lawgiver), along with a Link to listen to the BBC radio program describing the role of the tughra and calligraphy at the height of the Ottoman Empire.

Title: The Adventures of Hamza
Author: National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/hamza/hamza.htm
Annotation: This online exhibition is beautifully produced, and introduces the legend of the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Hamza and his companions’ adventures as they travel the world spreading the message of Islam. The miniatures accompany textual explanations from the story. Unfortunately, the images do not zoom for examination of finer details.

4. Daily Objects & Objects of Trade

Title: The Arts of Trade and Travel
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Library Association, and Twin Cities Public Television
Material Type: Online Video and Website
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/221
Annotation: This video traces the exchange of objects through trade, pilgrimage, and travel for education. It examines guide books, maps, navigational instruments like the astrolabe, road and caravan networks as well as sea travel. Caravansarais and urban hans supported travel and exchange across the region in commodities like silk, ceramics, and spices and plants, as well as in ideas and aesthetic influences.

Title: Europe & the Islamic Mediterranean AD 700-1600
Author: Mariam Rosser-Owen for the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/e/europe-islamic-mediterranean/
Annotation: This clearly written article traces the history of European interactions through trade with the Muslim societies of the Mediterranean. The objects featured are both from Islamic artisans and from Europeans who copied and sometimes surpassed the techniques and decoration of the originals. Click on the images to enlarge. Do also check out the Islamic art in the broader V&A collections—rather than going to the Islamic Middle East gallery, though, simply search the digital collection for keywords of interest (“Islamic” or “Islamic ceramic,” for example). Choose to search only for records with images for best results.

Title: The Indian Ocean in World History
Author: Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.indianoceanhistory.org
Annotation: This rich website allows teachers and students to explore the world of the Indian Ocean through maps of seven world eras. In each era (the medieval and first global eras are particularly key for this study guide), explore the icons representing goods, objects, documents, travelers, places, technologies and more—each will expand into an informative mini-essay compete with images

Title: Objects from the Hunt
Author: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.mia.org.qa/en/the-hunt/hunt-objects
Annotation: This small but wide-ranging exhibition on “The Hunt: Princely Pursuits in Islamic Lands” features images and information on a wide variety of objects associated with the hunt, from manuscript illustration to falcon hoods, from ceramics decorated with hunting scenes to an archer’s ring.

a. Textiles

Title: Islamic Textiles
Author: D. Fairchild Ruggles, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Library Association, and Twin Cities Public Television
Material Type: Online Video and Website
Link: http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/223
Annotation: This video describes the processes, institutions and trade involved in dying and weaving or knotting fabrics, and the uses of fabrics and carpets in Islamic societies and for trade

Title: Symmetry and Pattern: The Art of Oriental Rugs
Author: Carol Bier
Material Type: Website
Link: http://mathforum.org/geometry/rugs/
Annotation: Carol Bier of the Textile Museum examines symmetry and pattern in the context of Oriental carpets, with a wonderfully curated online gallery showing examples of different kinds of symmetrical pattern. It’s a terrifically rich resource—but be sure to return to the Title page after exploring each of the subdivisions, as the main table of contents appears only there. There are a number of simple student activities discussed under “Educational Resources.”

Title: Textiles
Author: Susan L. Douglass, for website for Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain (a UPF film)
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.islamicspain.tv/Arts-and-Science/The-Culture-of-Al-Andalus/Textiles.htm
Annotation: This concise article manages to give a great deal of detail, especially on silk brocade, a type of fabric traded for “power dressing” in many societies. It also discusses the production of and trade in cotton and wool, as well as fabric dyes.

b. Ceramics and Glass

Title: The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance
Author: The J. Paul Getty Museum
Material Type: Website from museum exhibition
Link: http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/arts_fire/
Annotation: This overview of a 2004 exhibition at the Getty tells the story of the Italian adaptation of both techniques and motifs of Islamic glass and ceramics. While few in number, the paired objects illustrate these influences beautifully

Title: Islamic Ceramics Trail
Author: Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, England
Material Type: Website
Link: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/collection/6/653/878
Annotation: This well-conceived website from the Ashmolean Museum walks visitors through the technical developments in the making of ceramics in the Islamic Middle East, with objects from the collection serving as illustrations of the various technological breakthroughs and aesthetic experiments. It highlights the contacts between the Middle and Far East and their impact on ceramics manufacture, as well as the inspiration ceramics from Muslim societies provided for European artisans

Title: Glass in the Islamic World
Author: Corning Museum of Glass
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.cmog.org/collection/galleries/islamic-glass
Annotation: This specialist museum has an excellent article on “A Brief History of Islamic Glassmaking,” which surveys the important innovations of artisans in the Islamic world in glass production, but the real draw are the amazingly high resolution images of items from the collection in the gallery, including a stunning cosmetic jar in an animal shape, a drinking horn, a stained glass bowl with bird and fish, and the cameo glass Corning Ewer, decorated with stunning horned animals and hawks.

Title: Iraq and China: Ceramics, Trade, and Innovation
Author: National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/iraqChina/default.htm
Annotation: This interactive online exhibition traces the reciprocal influences between Chinese and Iraqi ceramics. It is a fascinating look at how changing tastes and trading opportunities impact artistic production across cultural lines.

c. Metalwork

Title: Islamic Metalwork
Author: Betsy Williams, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Material Type: Downloadable Content
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/byzantium-and-islam/blog/material-matters/posts/islamic-metalwork
Annotation: This very brief introduction situates Islamic metalwork in the context of its Byzantine and Sasanian predecessors. It’s useful to look at the objects here in conjunction with the broader collection of Islamic metalwork in the Met’s galleries. A later historical context for Islamic metalwork is given in the Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, with an examination of trade in metalwork and other goods between Venice and the Mamluks

Title: Islamic Metalwork
Author: Norman A. Rubin
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue84/islamic_metalwork.html
Annotation: Rubin gives a short overview of the types of objects created from metal and the development of Islamic metalwork over time, including descriptions of inlay techniques and motifs and symbols commonly used.

Title: Metalwork, Weapons, and Jewelry
Author: The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark
Material Type: Website
Link: https://www.davidmus.dk/en/collections/islamic/materials/metal
Annotation: Beyond the short but informative introduction, the value of this site is in the well-written descriptions of the objects in the collection and the high-resolution images. To see them, you must click on the “works of art” button, then select one of the objects (for example, this Afghan bowl) and then click on one of the images there for a more detailed view.

Title: Metalwork Collection
Author: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.mia.org.qa/en/collections/metalwork
Annotation: The MIA has a strong collection of metalwork, highlighted through four major works: the oldest surviving Islamic astrolabe, a key for the Ka’aba, a statue of a hind, and a war mask. After exploring these, however, don’t miss going to the online collection and exploring the whole metalwork collection by selecting it from the pull-down menu.

D. Online Collections of Islamic Art

1. Major Museum Collections

Title: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Author: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search?&ft=*&deptids=14
Annotation: In addition to the Islamic art essays and online collections at the Met itself, and the excellent curriculum on Art of the Islamic World, there are a number of lesson plans based on the collection. Other lessons based on the Met’s collection have been produced by Yale’s Pier Center and written by classroom teachers, including one on Analyzing Islamic Art.

Title: A Global Guide to Islamic Art
Author: Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom
Material Type: Website article (based on print publication: Aramco World Jan-Feb 2009)
Link: https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200901/a.global.guide.to.islamic.art.htm
Annotation: This article by Blair and Bloom begins with a fine overview of Islamic art, and then surveys the best collections of Islamic art in museums across the globe. Unfortunately, the article does not give addresses for the websites of each museum whose collection is described, but a collection of the best websites is given at the end of the article.

Title: Museum of Islamic Art
Author: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.mia.org.qa/en/
Annotation: The MIA offers a variety of ways to access its collection online. You can explore their Highlights Tour, which features ten extraordinary objects from across the museum’s collections. There is also a special online tour of objects related to Science in Art and a Family Tour with objects and information geared to younger children, or a gallery highlighting Mughal and Safavid albums. You can also explore featured objects in the ceramics, glass, manuscripts, metalwork, and textiles collections individually, or search the online collection of about 400 objects. Larger images of items in the collections are available on the Google Cultural Institute website.

Title: Harvard Art Museums
Author: Harvard University
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/
Annotation: It can be a bit difficult to find what you’re looking for in the searchable online collection of the Harvard Art Museums unless you know how it is catalogued. Try using the filters under the “Place” tab for “Ottoman” and “Persia” for miniatures, for example, or choose “All Middle East” from the “Place” tab and then under “Technique/Medium” choose “All Ceramic.”

Title: Aga Khan Museum Collection Highlights
Author: Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada
Material Type: Website
Link: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/collection/collection-highlights
Annotation: This online collection has beautiful images of objects in the collection with well-written and informative information on each. However, visitors cannot zoom into the images to see the smallest details. The collection is divided into architectural decoration, calligraphy and illumination, ceramics, luxury objects, metalwork, painted manuscripts, Qur’ans, and science and learning.

Title: Islamic World
Author: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
Material Type: Website
Link: http://art.thewalters.org/browse/category/islamic-world/
Annotation: While the Walters’ collection isn’t the largest, it has one of the most impressive online collections. For its over 400 objects in the Islamic World collection, visitors can look at several views of very well described objects and zoom in to examine the smallest details. For example, click on the image of the cover of a Shahnama manuscript and you can check out dozens of paintings from the manuscript in close up. Even better, you can download individual images or the pdf of the entire text under a Creative Commons license. Some other interesting objects include the maps in Piri Reis’ Book on Navigation, the glass beakers with Christian and Islamic themes, and the printing plaque for pilgrimage certificates.

Title: Islamic Middle East
Author: Victoria and Albert Museum
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/i/islamic-middle-east/
Annotation: The Victoria & Albert has a wide collection of Islamic art. Unfortunately, the set of interesting Interactives that used to allow further exploration of the collection are currently unavailable. Annotation: See also the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of videos on Islamic architecture on the Middle East (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/islamic-architecture-of-the-middle-east-videos/) and the teacher’s resource Voyage through the Islamic Middle East http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/teachers-resource-voyage-through-the-islamic-middle-east/

2. Other Websites

Title: Islamic Art
Author: The Khalili Collections
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.khalili.org/collections/category/1
Annotation: The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art comprises over 20,000 objects including manuscripts of the Qur’an, illustrated manuscripts, calligraphy, ceramics, textiles, glass, metalwork, coins and seals. The images are wonderful, and the accompanying text is clear and informative. The website can be a bit confusing to navigate—be sure that Islamic Art is highlighted at the top under collections, then, if you like, choose a filter on the top left to narrow the type of objects shown (for example, arms and armour, calligraphy, textiles, glass, metalwork, miniature painting, etc.). Note that there are a LOT of objects in this comprehensive online gallery—make sure you continue to click on “Load More Objects” at the bottom of the page. Also, do check out the separate collection on Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage.

Title: Wikimedia Commons
Author: Wikimedia
Material Type: Website
Link:
Annotation: For freely usable images, it is useful to spend some time exploring Wikimedia Commons, although it can be a bit tricky to find the correct search terms. For example, a search for Islamic painting or Islamic miniatures will bring up a great variety of images, but additional Ottoman paintings would also be found under other categories, including the names of particular works, like the Surname-I Humayun, Surname-I Vehbi of Ahmed III, Süleymanname, Hünername or Nusretname.

Title: Islamic Arts and Architecture
Author: Islamic Arts and Architecture
Material Type: Website
Link: http://islamic-arts.org/
Annotation: This independent website, curated by enthusiasts, brings together a wide variety of articles (both written for the site and taken from other sources) on subjects ranging from analyses of individual objects to overviews of particular styles or regions.

3. Contemporary Art

Title: Islamic Art Now
Author: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.lacma.org/islamic_art/ian.htm
Annotation: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has not only an excellent collection of Islamic art from the early Islamic period through the 19th century, but also an excellent collection of contemporary works from the Middle East, many of which reference classical traditions of calligraphy, decoration and figural representation in interesting ways. Their article on “Islamic Art Now” describes some of the pieces in the collection and will spark great conversations on both the nature of Islamic art and the universality and cultural particularity of contemporary art. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Islamic Art Now.”

Title: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
Author: Google Cultural Institute (host)
Material Type: Website
Link: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/collection/mathaf-arab-museum-of-modern-art?projectId=art-project&v.view=grid
Annotation: The Google Cultural Institute hosts the online collection of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, located in Doha, Qatar. The 90 items showcased in the online collection include some that reference traditional modes of Islamic art, such as calligraphy or miniature painting, as well as many that are abstract or reference the region’s ancient heritage or Western or global traditions.

Title: Graffiti and Street Art
Author: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Material Type: Website/video
Link: http://cmes.fas.harvard.edu/k-12-resources/visual-culture-and-pop-culture#Graffiti-and-street-art
Annotation: The site hosts a short video of Tunisian “calligraffiti” artist eL Seed creating a mural Titled, “I’m taking back purple,” a reference to the fact that the former Tunisian ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, often used the color purple and it was associated with the Authoritarian pre-
revolutionary government. There is an additional article from the Harvard Gazette on eL Seed and his work.

Title: Jameel Prize
Author: Victoria and Albert Museum
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-jameel-prize/
Annotation: The Jameel Prize is an award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. It aims to “explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.” The website allows visitors to explore the short-listed artists and creations of the last three award cycles through short videos. These objects range from fashion design to typography, multimedia installations to digital collage. The works are fascinating, and a reminder that tradition never dies but is continually transformed. There is a short but interesting teachers’ resource for the last cycle.

Title: Ferozkoh: Tradition and Continuity in Afghan Art
Author: Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.mia.org.qa/en/library/inspired-by-books/ferozkoh-catalogue
Annotation: Download the pdf of the catalogue for this fascinating exhibit to discover the story of a group of Afghan artists and artisans working at the Turquoise Mountain Institute in Kabul and their journey to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha to be inspired by works of art from four empires that ruled in Afghanistan. The artists reinterpret the artistic traditions represented by these objects, and the old and new masterworks are exhibited side by side.

Title: Salsali Private Museum
Author: Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, UAE
Material Type: Website
Link: http://www.salsalipm.com/index.php/permanent-collection
Annotation: The collection of this private museum, founded by Ramin Salsali, features a variety of contemporary artists from across the region. The museum also aspires to create a community of artists, collectors and galleries and to contribute to the development of creative culture in Arab society.

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