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Amber Khokhar

March 2012

Plant-based Decoration in Islamic Art


Introduction
Exploring Plant based decoration is an easily accessible way to appreciate and understand Islam and Islamic Art and Design. The abundance and variety of flower motifs and pattern continue to influence artists and designers today. In Islamic societies floral patterns were applied to a huge range of artefacts and objects from coffee cups to compasses. As Islam spread from !pain to the Indonesian Archipelago designs evolved and adapted reflecting time and place.

Exploring Plant based decoration is an easily accessible way to appreciate and understand Islam and Islamic Art and Design. The abundance and variety of flower motifs and pattern continue to influence artists and designers today. In Islamic societies floral patterns were applied to a huge range of artefacts and objects from coffee cups to compasses. As Islam spread from !pain to the Indonesian Archipelago designs evolved and adapted reflecting time and place.

Embroidered Picture "orris #illiam born $%&' ( died $%)* +designer, "orris "ary +"ay, born $%*- ( died $)&% +designer and ma.er, /ictoria and Albert "useum 0ondon

1orn locally in #althamstow the renowned designer #illiam "orris developed many textile and wallpaper designs inspired by the patterns and motifs that he admired in Islamic art. Islamic floral motifs abstract stylised and representational offer opportunities to explore a variety of mediums and design principles in architecture art design and technology. 2eligion 3eography 4istory and !cience can be explored through a range of artwor.s that were inspired and influenced by beliefs and practicalities of worship. "aterials used internally and externally will reflect the weather and availability of resources as well as the local culture. !o that prayer mats were often made from reed in Africa but patterned patchwor. in 5yprus li.ewise "os6ues built in Poland were traditionally made of wood whilst in 5hina the mos6ues reflect the pagoda style architecture.

"os6ue Poland and 5hina

5ross fertilisation of ideas products and designs occurred through trade and during the pilgrimage of 4aj where a range of cultures and ethnicities met annually in "a..ah. In 5hapter ') /erse $& of the 7uran Allah tells "uhammed +pbuh, 8"an.ind9 #e created :ou from a single pair of a male and a female And made you into nations and tribes that you may .now each other +;ot that you may despise each other,<.

Origins
Plant(based patterns used on their own or combined with other design elements in Islamic Art= calligraphy geometry and figurative adorn a huge number of buildings manuscripts objects and textiles. Patterns based on plants have always been particularly popular and as many craftsmen became "uslim pre Islamic motifs were assimilated and a profusion of designs emerged throughout the "uslim world.

Inspiration
Islamic Art too. its inspiration directly from the 7uran as well as 7uranic descriptions of Paradise and directives to see. .nowledge. The 7uran repeatedly mentions the marvels of nature as among Allah<s signs insisting "uslims ta.e note and meditate on them. In 5hapter > /erse ?* the 7uran tells "uslims that 8The mercy of Allah is near to those who do what is beautiful<. "uslims are also encouraged to embrace the diversity and cultures of the "uslim world in one @mmah a world(wide community of believers. 8"an.ind9 #e created :ou from a single pair of a male and a female And made you into nations and tribes that you may .now each other +;ot that you may despise each other, 7uran 5hapter ') /erse $&. This atmosphere of art and learning saw a sophisticated secular art develop as an integral part of Islamic 5ulture.

Quranic
The emergence of Islamic Art reflects many aspects of Islam as a faith and way of life. The 7uran contains the revelations sent down to the Prophet "uhammed +pbuh, through the angel 3abriel from 3od. These form the basis of Islamic belief and calligraphy of the sacred text is considered by many "uslims as the highest form of Islamic Art. 5alligraphers adorned and illuminated the sacred text with ex6uisite and intricate flower patterns reflecting love and passion for their new religion. As images are not used on buildings or artefacts used in worship these too were decorated with superb floral designs.

ardens
3ardens occupy a special place as spaces of contemplation and an earthly reflection of paradise in the imagination of Islamic Artists. 4owever the idea of paradise as a garden pre dates the three Abrahamic traditions Audaism 5hristianity and Islam by centuries and is an almost universal concept symbolic of bliss and peace. 8Therein they shall hear no idle tal. no cause of sin only the saying 8Peace Peace<B can be found in 5hapter ?* /erse -'. There are over $-C references in the 7uran to Paradise which is described as a beautiful garden containing an abundance of vines delicately perfumed by flowering and fruit laden trees refreshed by shimmering fountains and rippling streams. According to some scholars the plants represent a profound symbolism and the four gardens of Paradise a spiritual journey. In the 3arden of the !pirit grows a Date Palm whilst the 3arden of Essence contains the Pomegranate tree. In the 3arden of the !oul grows the Dlive tree and the Eig can be found in the 3arden of the 4eart +based on "artin 0ings< interpretation in his Book of Certainty, The Islamic Texts !ociety $))-,.

Abstract Art
A celebrated feature of Islamic art is an enthusiasm for abstract and stylised flowers. . ;aturalistic plant forms were abstracted through design and a proliferation of bold and imaginative motifs developed. Even though "uslim artists were 6uite capable of and did draw naturalistically they generally chose not to copy directly from nature but rather to invent flowers from their imagination. Inspired by the 7uranic vision of Paradise they created flowers that were not of this world but symbolic of paradise. The archetypal floral forms were then applied to elaborate patterns. !uch complex and intricate designs create an illusion of unending repetition that were intended to remind believers of the infinite nature of 3od.

!cience
Artists and scientists have always been acute observers of the world and in Islamic societies scientific research endorsed religious beliefs. The 7uran and the 4adith the sayings of he Prophet "uhammed +pbuh, fostered and encouraged an atmosphere of intellectual and scientific investigation as "uslims had a religious duty to 8see. .nowledge<. Eloral patterns were used to adorn scientific instruments including astrolabes and compasses. ;umerous illustrated treatises were written about seeds flowers and plants including their physical and medicinal properties. In !pain "uslim botanists and agriculturists brought and cultivated apricots and citrus fruits from 5hina bananas from Indonesia and sugarcane from India. Eor the first time Europe which previously had .nown only linen and wool was introduced to and able to cultivate cotton from India and sil. from 5hina. The 6

Prophet "uhammed +pbuh, spo.e of the health benefits of 1lac. !eed and Eenugree. !eeds and his favourite fragrance was 2ose. 2ose scented water is often sprin.led in "os6ues and used to clean hands at the table before and after meals. Drange flower ;eroli and 2ose flavourings are still used to flavour desserts and drin.s.

"ra#el
A uni6ue feature of Islamic !ociety was the mobility of its population. The Prophet "uhammed +pbuh, came from families who had previously established two great caravan routes of and 4e was proposed to and married an established merchant. Eurthermore one of the important duties of a "uslim was to ma.e pilgrimage to "a..ah and the Prophet +pbuh, was reported to have encouraged boys and girls to travel as far as 5hina if it was beneficial for their education. This incentive to embrace and learn from foreigners and travel gave wonderful opportunities to Islamic artists to absorb new ideas and influences from all over the world and are reflected in their art. The prophet "uhammed +pbuh, was born in ?>C AD in "a..ah and died in "adinah in *&- AD in Arabia. 1y >$$ "uslims entered !pain and began five centuries of Islamic rule. The world<s oldest @niversity Al(AFhar was founded in 5airo Egypt in )>C AD. Aerusalem was reclaimed from the 5rusaders in $$%> by !alah ud(Din respected adversary of 2ichard the 0ion 4eart. In $'?& 5onstantinople +Istanbul, became the capital of the Dttoman Tur.s whose empire had by the $?-CGs spread to include south(east Europe including 4ungary the "iddle East and north Africa. Erom India Islam spread to !umatra where in $??C a "uslim .ingdom was established and from there the new faith began to influence Aava the "oluccas and 1orneo. The $>th 5entury became the 8golden age< of 7

Islam in Indonesia. In $%C) @sman dan Eodio founded the Hhaliphate of !o.oto in ;igeria. 4ere in the @H in $%%) 4enry #illiam 7uilliam a convert to Islam opened the 0iverpool "os6ue. This was soon followed in$%)' by 1ritain<s first purpose(built mos6ue in #o.ing !urrey. The collapse of the Dttoman Empire and Hhalifate in the $)-Cs along with the end of European colonialism in the "iddle East and Asia led to the migration of "uslims to Europe the @!A and Australia and throughout Arabia. In the $)-Cs Polish "uslims built a mos6ue in 1roo.lyn ;ew :or.. Detroit saw the beginning of the conversion of many African American "uslims for whom "alcolm I became a spo.esperson in the $)*C<s. #orldwide $ in ? people are "uslim and in the @H approximately &J of the population is "uslim.

Islamic !ocieties
In Islamic cultures the decorative arts became highly sophisticated. In such societies there was no essential difference between secular and spiritual life. The first "os6ue built was also the home of the Prophet "uhammed +pbuh, li.ewise the living room of a house can also be used as the familyGs prayer room where the same payers are said as within the mos6ue. 1eautifully adorned objects at home and in mos6ues were intended as a constant remembrance of the words of 3od and also a reminder of what could be attained in the 4ereafter. 8Do what is beautiful. 3od loves those who do what is beautiful.< 7uran -K$)?

Introducing $lo%ers
Discuss the popularity of flowers. In the $)?Cs people imagined futuristic homes to be silver metallic and streamlined. 4owever even now in our technologically developed age we still li.e to surround ourselves with flowers.

A&"I'I"( 1) Introduction
a, In class as. students to create a spiderLweb diagram of where we see pictures and images of flowers e.g. cups plates tablecloths curtains wallpaper card wrapping paper and plastic bags. b, Eor homewor. as. students to collect images of flowers and leaves +from aforementioned sources, magaFines as well as objects from nature e.g. pressed flowers leaves bar. seeds cloves star anise etc c, In class draw and cut out s6uares $?cmx$?cm using colour card +eg dar. blue and tur6uoise or dar. green and light green,. @sing a combination of the above materials and glue create a mixed media collage. !uggest the students consider bordersLedges diagonals parallel lines +horiFontal and vertical, repetition and reflective symmetry +where one half of the image is a mirror reflection of another,. "ount all completed pieces to create a tiled wall.

Prayer mat s India and Pa.istan /ictoria and Albert "useum

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A&"I'I"( 2) Design a $loral carpet or pra*er rug


a, In class as. students to create a spiderLweb diagram consider= #hat and where are carpets mats and rugs used and not usedM #hy and what siFe are the carpetsM #hy and what are they made ofM #hat types of images are popularM b, Eor homewor. as. students to collect images of carpets mats rugs bed spreads curtains textiles wall papers with floral plant patterns and analyse the designs= Do they use reflective +where one half of the image is a mirror reflection of another, Do they use rotational symmetry +where the object would loo. the same after rotation,M Is there a direction or top to the rugM Are the arrangements flowering plants the central focus of the design or a bac.ground patternM As. them to research the meaning or symbolism of the fruits flowers plants seeds and their coloursM Are they associated with a seasonM Do they represent a country or are they used in a particular eventM 5an they be grown locally in gardens or green housesM 5onsider the flexibility of floral designs and how they occupy the space provided by the objectM 5onsider whether the flowers fruits plants are used as a bac.ground or are they the main subjectM 5an you draw buds flowers fruits leaves stems seeds tendrilsM c , In class and or for homewor. as. students to design a floral inspired prayer rug or a carpet. 5onsider design materials and mar.et. +i, A Prayer "at for a "uslim. 5onsider where they live eg a !cottish "uslim may need a thic. woollen prayer mat whereas a Aamaican "uslim could prefer a sil. or sisal payer mat. +ii, A s6uare carpet for a "os6ue lobby. 5onsider local designs eg at the ;iujie "os6ue in 1eijing 5hina the 3reat "os6ue !hibam "os6ue in :emen HrusFyniany "os6ue in Poland the !uleiman "os6ue Istanbul the 3reat @mmayad "os6ue Damascus !yria @lugh 1eg "os6ue !amar.and @Fbe.istan #aFir Hhan "os6ue 0ahore Pa.istan the 3rande "os6uee de Paris Erance !hah Aahan "os6ue in #o.ing @H Djenne "os6ue in "ali etc. +otes $or & ,i"uslims all over the world turn their prayer rugs towards "a..ah for their ? daily prayers. The direction of prayer +7ibla, is always indicated by the use of a directional point. !o that there is always a front section where the forehead rests in the position of submission. This could be indicated in the design by an arch

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"ihrab or a vase. In mos6ues the direction of prayer +7ibla, is indicated by the "ihrab a physical structure. !ome prayers rugs are practical and portable and some are for use at home. In times of joy and in times of crisis "uslims will meditate and pray on their prayer rugs as it is considered a protected and sacred space.

+otes $or & ,ii8To us pattern(designers Persia has become a 4oly 0and for there in the process of time our art was perfected and thence above all places it spread to cover for a while the world east and west.< #illiam "orris. #illiam "orris described the carpet designed for the !hei.h 0utfullah "os6ue as 8the finest Eastern carpet which I have seen< and the design is 8of singular perfection= defensible on all points logically and consistently beautiful<.

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Hnown as The Ardabil 5arpet +town in ;orth #est Iran, it was made during the reign of !hah Tahmasp for the shrine of the !ufi +the mystical facet of Islam, !aint !hei.h !afi(Al(Din and is one of the largest finest and historically most important carpets to survive. A copy of the 8Ardabil< carpet can be found at $C Downing !treet and even Adolf 4itler owned a copy. It is because of #illiam "orris endeavours we are able to view it at the Aameel 3allery at The /ictoria and Albert "useum.

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A&"I'I"( .) /lo%ers on a &o$$ee !et using an I0nik Palette ,dark blue1 bright blue2tur3uoise1 red-

a, In class or at home as. students to draw a selection of Tea and or 5offee cups jugs mugs and pots. 5onsider the shape and particularly the surface pattern material and use. #hat is it made of and how was it madeM #ho was it made for and how or where was it usedM #hy do you thin. it is a successful or unsuccessful designM

b, Divide the class into groups and on paper as a team design a coffee set eg coffee pot coffee cups sugar pot mil. jug etc. Each design team will chose an appropriate plant or flower as inspiration eg Tulip

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0otus Aasmine 2ose Daffodil. As. them to research the meaning or symbolism of the flowers and their colours Are they associated with a seasonM Do they represent a country or are they used in a particular eventM 5an they be grown locally in gardens or green housesM 5onsider the flexibility of floral designs and how they occupy the space provided by the objectM 5onsider whether the flowers are used as a bac.ground or are they the main subjectM 5an you draw buds leaves stems tendrilsM Each team will be given a "uslim client which they will need to research on the internet eg !ultan "ehmed II +Tur.ey, 3eneral Nheng 4e +5hina, 7ueen 2aFia !ultan +India, 7ueen /ictoria<s butler Abdul Harim +IndiaL@H, ;oor(un(;isa Inayat HhanL;ora 1a.er +EuropeLIndiaL@!, Dr 3ottleib #ilhelm 0eitner +4ungaryL@H, Abu Ali ibn !ina a.a as Avicenna +@Fbe.istanLIran, Al(Idrisi +ItalyL"oroccoL!pain, cartographerLgeographer. 5onsider client function material and maintain a design theme through shapes and plant based decoration. c, In class each student can ma.e $ item to contribute towards a coffee set. 2esearch materials eg brass earthenware glass metal porcelain polystyrene waxed paper etc.

Art option . ,iTableware could be made from scratch using clay or dough or plasticine or papier mache etc. Art option . ,ii!tudents could decorate paper cups using acrylic paints= glass using glass paints and ceramic cups using oven glaFes.

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+otes on . 5arafe coffee jar sugar and are words of Arabic origin and there are many legends to the origin of the drin. itself. The famous !ufi !aint +the esoteric facet of Islam, from :emen Abu al(4asan al(!hadhili is said to have discovered the effects of coffee whilst traveling in Ethiopia and observing the berries effects on birds. 5offee continues to be popular and is associated with many !ufi Drders +the esoteric facet of Islam, who continue to use it to .eep alert during their nighttime devotions. Even though the coffee bean was originally enjoyed in the :emen the first coffee house appeared in Aleppo !yria but it was the Dttomans who popularised the culture of the coffee house. The first coffee house in Europe was opened in /enice where a vibrant trade between Egypt and ;orth Africa was well established. 4owever it was !ultan "ehmed I/<s Dttoman ambassador !oleiman Aghaa who in $**) popularised the beverage in Paris and the rest of Europe followed. Antoine 3alland +$*'*O$>$?, described the "uslim association with coffee tea and chocolateK 8#e are indebted to these great PArabQ physicians for introducing coffee to the modern world through their writings as well as sugar tea and chocolate<

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4ackground in$ormation
Islamic art weblin.sK /RA Aameel 3allery O further information and interactive resourcesK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LcollectionsLasiaLislamicSgallL /RA guide to style in Islamic artK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LvastaticLmicrositesL$&'-SislamicSmiddleSeastL /RA 8!tyle 3uide< showing influence of Islamic art on 1ritish art and designK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LvastaticLmicrositesLbritishSgalleriesLbgSstylesL!tyleC%dLindex. html Dnline international collaborative museum projectK 8"useum with ;o ErontiersK Discover Islamic art< O excellent resourceK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LcollectionsLasiaLislamSgallL 1ritish "useum collection of art from the Islamic "iddle EastK httpKLLwww.britishmuseum.orgLexploreLworldSculturesLmiddleSeastLislamicSmiddleS east.aspx "etropolitan "useum of Art ;ew :or. O excellent timeline of art history including short articles on Islamic artK httpKLLwww.metmuseum.orgLtoahLsplash.htm "etropolitan "useum of Art ;ew :or. O article on plant(based design httpKLLwww.metmuseum.orgLtoahLhdLvegeLhdSvege.htm Plant-based design %eb links) Introduction to the Ardabil 5arpet in the Aameel 3alleryK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LresSconsLconservationLjournalLnumberS')LardabilScarpetLind ex.html /ictoria and Albert "useum resource on plant motifs in Tudor England "ughal India and 7ing 5hinaK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LschoolSstdntsLschoolsSteachLteachersSresourcesLplantsLinde x.html #illiam "orris R 5o websiteK httpKLLwww.william(morris.co.u.LMgclidT5;fTtSFS-Nc5E2%cEAod%mfDD7 #illiam "orris !ociety websiteK httpKLLwww.morrissociety.orgL #illiam "orris wallpaper at the /ictoria and Albert "useumK httpKLLwww.vam.ac.u.LcollectionsLprintsSboo.sLfeaturesL#allpaperL#illiamS"orrisLi ndex.html Plant Teachers ;otes $ 17

5ontemporary textile design company that incorporates plant(based designs in it wor.K www.timorousbeasties.com Islamic art reading list) 1loom Aonathan and 1lair !heila. Islamic Arts5 0ondonK Thames and 4udson $))>. 1lair !.!. and 1loom A. +eds.,. Images o$ Paradise in Islamic Art5 AustinK @niversity of Texas Press $))$. 5anby !heila. Islamic Art in Detail5 5ambridge "A and 0ondonK 4arvard @niversity Press -CC*. 3ombrich E.4. "he !ense o$ Order5 0ondonK Phaidon $)>). 3rabar Dleg. "he Mediation o$ Ornament5 Princeton ;AK Princeton @niversity Press $))-. 4illenbrand 2obert. Islamic Art and Architecture. 0ondonK Thames and 4udson $))). !i6 &enturies o$ Islamic Art in &hina 5atalogue Islamic Arts "useum "alaysia -CC$ HUhnel Ernst. "he Arabes3ue Meaning and trans$ormation o$ Ornament5 3raFK /erlag fUr !ammler $)>*. Tim !tanley et al. Palace and "os6ueK Islamic Art $rom the Middle 7ast5 0ondonK Phaidon -CC'. #il.inson Philip and !alaFar 1atul. 7*e%itness Hindersley 0ondon -CCuides Islam. Dorling

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