Islamic art and the patterns of the infinite

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine what exactly encompasses Islamic art. The term is not specific to a religion, place, time or even a field, and instead spans over 1400 years and receives influences from Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and even Chinese art. Although some think Islamic art is a false concept, the similarities between pieces of the Islamic world is what have kept scholars using the term.

An element that repeats in Islamic art is the arabesqueso much that it’s been called “the definitive characteristic in all Islamic art”. Because Muslims believe in the absolute and complete unity of God, Islamic artists had to develop a form of art that did not include any symbolic representation of God. Instead, arabesques use floral and vegetal patterns to symbolize the transcendent, the indivisible and the infinite.

Here’s something interesting about arabesques: They can contain mistakes. Some experts believe these errors in the repetitions were intentionally produced to show the humility of the artists who believed only God could create perfection.

Famous works of architecture that feature arabesques include the Great Mosque of Damascus, the Taj Mahal and the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain.


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