Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
Introduction calligraphyAbstract DesignArts of the Book The Art of the Object
"Arts of the Islamic world" or "Islamic art" are relatively recent terms coined in reference to the different artistic traditions that have flourished since the advent of Islam in the seventh century over a vast geographic area extending from Morocco and Spain to the islands of Southeast Asia. As heirs to the rich visual cultures of the Byzantine empire of the eastern Mediterranean world (342–1453) and the Sasanian Empire of Iran (ca. 224–651), the arts emerged as a powerful, creative force, capable of highlighting secular and religious objectives as well as human impulses.

Since the early centuries of Islam, the arts have reflected the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the region; at the same time, they have shared certain salient features inspired by the predominant faith in the region—Islam, founded by the Prophet Muhammad in 622, in Arabia. Fostering a distinct visual language, Islam provided a powerful link between such different artistic traditions as those associated with medieval Cordoba (Spain), Cairo (Egypt), Samarqand (present-day Uzbekistan), or Delhi (India).

The three principal vehicles for artistic expression in the Islamic world are architecture, the arts of the book (calligraphy, illustration, illumination, and bookbinding), and the arts of the object (ceramics, metalwork, glass, woodwork, textiles, and ivory).
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Suggested Resources

Abstract Design
Arts of the Book
Arts of the Object
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
Exhibition List | Online Exhibitions

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