Art of islam

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)



Text of Art of islam

  • 1. Islam / Art History Titus BurckhardtThe author of over 20 books on art, religion, and spirituality, Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984) workedfor many years as a UNESCO expert, helping to preserve the historic old city of Fez, Morocco. Hismasterpiece, Art of Islam: Language and Meaning was originally published in London in 1976 and ispresented by World Wisdom in a fully revised edition with new illustrations. This edition commemorates the 100th birthday of the author,Titus Burckhardt; Features over 350 color and black-and-white illustrations; and Art Includes a new Introduction by Burckhardts friend andof Islamcollaborator, Jean-Louis Michon.@ !This work stands alone. Nothing of comparable importance has appeared before, and it is hard toimagine that it will ever be surpassed. Titus Burckhardts book provides a spiritual key to the artforms in which the religion of Islam has found a particularly striking and compelling expression. Inconsequence, this book must be of profound concern not only to those who are interested in the specicart forms of a particular culture, but to all who are interested in the religion of Islam and, ultimately, inLanguage andreligion as such. Charles Le Gai Eaton, author of Islam and the Destiny of ManMeaning ArtTitus Burckhardt looks at Islam with the eyes of a scholar who combines deep spiritual insight withthe love of eternal Truth. Commemorative EditionAnnemarie Schimmel, Harvard University, author of Mystical Dimensions of Islam of[This is] the denitive work on Islamic art as far as the meaning and spiritual signicance of this art areconcerned. Burckhardt brings together a lifetime of outward and inward experience to produce a peer- Islamless work, one in which Islamic art is at last revealed to be what it really is, namely the earthly crystalliza-tion of the spirit of the Islamic revelation as well as a reection of the heavenly realities on earth. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The George Washington University, author of Islamic Art and SpiritualityThose who can do, and know why they do, will always hold positions of dignity and true knowledge inthe realm of the traditional arts. Titus Burckhardt is one such authority. My recollection of meeting withhim is unforgettable. For the newcomer to the Islamic arts, my assurance is that you could not be in betterhands than those of the great eternalist Titus Burckhardt: he will take you to the very core and heart, ifyou are willing.Keith Critchlow, The Princes School of Traditional Arts, author of Islamic Patterns: An Analyticaland Cosmological ApproachBurckhardts last major work was his widely acclaimed and impressive monograph Art of Islam. Herethe intellectual principles and the spiritual role of artistic creativity in its Islamic forms are richly andgenerously displayed before us.William Stoddart, author of Susm: The Mystical Doctrines and Methods of Islam World Wisdom WorldTitus Burckhardt Wisdom$ 32.95 USForeword by Seyyed Hossein NasrIntroduction by Jean-Louis Michon

2. World WisdomThe Library of Perennial Philosophy The Library of Perennial Philosophy is dedicated to the exposition of thetimeless Truth underlying the diverse religions. This Truth, often referred to asthe Sophia Perennisor Perennial Wisdomfinds its expression in the revealedScriptures as well as the writings of the great sages and the artistic creations ofthe traditional worlds.Art of Islam, Language and Meaning: Commemorative Edition appears asone of our selections in the Sacred Art in Tradition series. Sacred Art in Tradition The aim of this series is to underscore the essential role of beauty and itsartistic expressions in the Perennial Philosophy. Each volume contains full-color reproductions of masterpieces of traditional artincluding painting,sculpture, architecture, and vestimentary artcombined with writings byauthorities on each subject. Individual titles focus either on one spiritualtradition or on a central theme that touches upon diverse traditions. 3. ii Art of Islam 4. Art of Islam Language and Meaning Commemorative EditionTitus BurckhardtForeword bySeyyed Hossein Nasr Introduction byJean-Louis Michon World Wisdom 5. Art of Islam, Language and Meaning Commemorative Edition 2009 World Wisdom, Inc. All rights reserved.No part of this book may be used or reproducedin any manner without written permission, except in critical articles and reviews.Image research and book design by Susana MarnLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataBurckhardt, Titus. [Art de lislam. English] Art of Islam : language and meaning / Titus Burckhardt ; foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr ;introd. by Jean-Louis Michon. Commemorative ed. p. cm. (Sacred art in tradition) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-933316-65-9 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Art, Islamic. I. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. II.Michon, Jean-Louis. III. Title. N6260.B8713 2009 709.1767--dc22 2008045561 Cover image: Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt Photograph by Susana MarnPrinted on acid-free paper in China. For information address World Wisdom, Inc. P.O. Box 2682, Bloomington, Indiana 47402-2682 6. ContentsForeword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr viiIntroduction by Jean-Louis MichonixPreface xvChapter I Prologue: The Kaba 1Notes to Chapter I6Chapter IIThe Birth of Islamic Art71 The Second Revelation72 The Dome of the Rock 83 The Umayyads134 Mshatt 155 The Great Umayyad Mosque at Damascus18Notes to Chapter II28Chapter III The Question of Images 291 Aniconism 292 The Persian Miniature 32Notes to Chapter III 41Chapter IV The Common Language of Islamic Art 431 Arab Art, Islamic Art 432 Arabic Calligraphy523 The Arabesque 624 The Sphere and the Cube 735 The Alchemy of Light80Notes to Chapter IV85Chapter V Art and Liturgy871 The Nature and Role of Sacred Art 872 The Mirb903 The Minbar944 Tombs 965 The Art of Apparel 102Notes to Chapter V105Chapter VI The Art of Sedentaries and Nomadic Art1071 Dynasties and Ethnic Groups1072 The Art of the Carpet1133 Knightly Art 122Note to Chapter VI124 7. Chapter VIISynthesis 125 1 Variety in Unity125 2 The Great Mosque of Kairouan128 3 The Great Mosque of Crdoba 132 4 The Mosque of Ibnln at Cairo138 5 The College Mosque of Sultan asan in Cairo 146 6 Ottoman Mosques 156 7 The Shh Mosque at Ifahn179 8 The Taj Mahal 190Chapter VIII The City199 1 Muslim Town-planning199 2 Art and Contemplation 220 Glossary226 List of Illustrations 229 Index 234 Acknowledgments 237 Biographical Notes238 8. ForewordDespite the vast amount of documentation and descriptive studies already carried out byWestern scholars, Islamic art has remained until now a singularly neglected field as far as thestudy in depth of its inner meaning is concerned. Since the taste of Western historians of art hasbeen molded by several centuries of humanistic art from the Renaissance on, and even beforethat by a sacred art based primarily on the icon and secondarily on sculpture, Western scholarshave naturally found the great schools of Indian and Far Eastern art of more interest than theIslamic, even when they have turned their eyes beyond the confines of Western civilization.During the past century works of profundity gradually began to appear on the arts of India andthe Far East, revealing their symbolism and the metaphysical principles underlying them. Thisactivity may be said to have culminated in the writings of A. K. Coomaraswamy, who unfoldedbefore the English speaking world the unbelievable depth of the traditional art of India andalso to a large extent that of mediaeval Europe. Meanwhile, despite certain works of inspiration which appeared here and there, Islamicart continued to be a closed book as far as its symbolic meaning was concerned. Its major artforms such as calligraphy were considered as decoration or minor arts and people looked invain in this tradition for art forms which were central elsewhere. In addition, those who becameinterested in Islamic art for its so-called abstract nature often did so for the wrong reasons.They thought that Islamic art is abstract in the same sense as modern Western art, whereas thetwo stand at opposite poles. The result of the one form of abstraction is the glass skyscraperswhich scar most modern cities, and the fruit of the other is the Shh Mosque and the Taj Mahal.The one seeks to evade the ugliness of naturalistic and condensed forms of nineteenth-centuryEuropean art by appeal to a mathematical abstraction of a purely human and rationalistic order.The other sees in the archetypes residing in the spiritual empyrean the concrete realities ofwhich the so-called realities of this world are nothing but shadows and abstractions. It thereforeseeks to overcome this shadow by returning to the direct reflections of the truly concrete worldin this world of illusion and abstraction which the forgetful nature of man takes for concretereality. The process of so-called abstraction in Islamic art is, therefore, not at all a purely humanand rationalistic process as in modern abstract art, but the fruit of intellection in its originalsense, or vision of the spiritual world, and an ennobling of matter by recourse to the principleswhich descend from the higher levels of cosmic and ultimately Metacosmic Reality. The writings of Titus Burckhardt have the great virtue of having brought to light for thefirst time in the modern West this and other fundamental principles of Islamic art and ofhaving achieved at last for Islamic art what Coomaraswamy did for the art of India. Burckhardthas himself mentioned in his earlier works that Islamic art derives from the wedding of wisdom(ikmah) and craftsmanship (fann or inah). Therefore to be able to explain this art in depthrequires an intimate knowledge of both, which Burckhardt possessed to a startling degree.He is already known as one of the most masterly expositors of Sufism in the West, and hisIntroduction to Sufi Doctrine, as well as translations of Ibn Arab and Abd al-Karm al-Jl,have become classics.