7of the Most Famous Islamic Artworks in History

Even the most knowledgeable art connoisseur will struggle to name even a single famous example of Islamic art. The general public remains largely ignorant of the diverse and rich artistic traditions of Islam, and even many art historians remain unaware of how greatly these cultures contributed to the global scope of visual culture.  To help change this, we’ve put together a list of some of the most famous examples of Islamic artworks in history. While there is much more out there that we couldn’t include here, these are some of the most recognizable works from major artists at an accessible level.

The Great Mosque of Damascus

The Great Mosque of Damascus is one of the oldest and most famous examples of Islamic architecture. It was built by the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid I in 705, originally serving as a house of worship for the city’s growing population of Muslims. The mosque contains many distinctive features of early Islamic architecture, such as the hypostyle grid system and the use of muqarnas architecture. The mosque has been destroyed and rebuilt over the course of its history, with the current structure dating back to a restoration project in 1901. The Great Mosque of Damascus is one of the most famous architectural examples of early Islamic art and architecture among tourists and historians alike.

Muhalabra Marbling Techniques

Muhalabra marbling is a complex and beautiful Islamic artform dating back to the 15th century. It was used to decorate various objects, such as Quranic manuscripts, paper, stucco, and walls. Muhalabra marbling is one of the most famous examples of Islamic art in the world, and it has influenced many artists outside of the Islamic world. Due to the complexity of the marbling technique and the use of gold and other expensive materials, muhalabra marbling was an expensive and prestigious artistic practice reserved for the ruling classes. While it has been practiced in Iran since the 15th century, it remains to this day an artform practiced solely by master craftsmen of Shiraz, who sell their creations for extremely high prices.

The Mu’allaqa of Imam al-Shafii

The Mu’allaqa of Imam al-Shafii is a manuscript dating back to 786 that has become a famous example of Islamic calligraphy. The Mu’allaqa is a collection of poems that were either written or transcribed by Imam al-Shafii himself, who was an important religious figure in early Islamic history. The manuscript itself is written on gazelle parchment, an expensive and rare material at the time. While the Mu’allaqa has been widely studied, it has only been physically available to the public at select museums. It was put up for auction in 2016 by Sotheby’s, where it was expected to sell for a price between $1 and $2 million. The manuscript ultimately did not sell at the auction, but it was nonetheless the subject of much media attention.

Quran Manuscripts and Quranic Art

Quranic art is the practice of physically decorating the Quran with gold or silver, or weaving the text into cloth. It is a common practice in Islamic cultures and has a history dating back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The tradition of decorating the Quran with gold and other precious materials is one used to respect the sacred text and gift the book to high-ranking officials. In fact, the first recorded instance of gold-plated Quranic manuscripts dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad himself, who gifted members of his community with the decorated books. Quranic art has evolved over the centuries, such as the incredible designs you can see here created by award winning Saudi Calligrapher Mr Khan.changing alongside the styles and aesthetics of the regions where it’s practiced.

Persian Quranic Embroidery

The practice of stitching decorative designs onto the Quran is a long-standing tradition in Iran and Central Asia. The earliest examples of this style of Quranic art date back to the 16th century, and it has been practiced in Iran and Central Asia ever since. Persian Quranic embroidery often features scenes from nature, such as plants and birds, as well as geometric designs and calligraphy. It is an expensive art form that remains largely practiced by women, and it has a long and rich history in the culture. The most famous example of Persian Quranic embroidery is the Ardabil Quran, a 15th-century silk Quran that is decorated with elaborate scenes and designs. It is one of the most famous examples of Quranic art and is currently housed in the Iranian city of Ardabil.

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul is one of the most famous examples of Islamic architecture. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I during the 17th century, and it remains to this day one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The mosque is famous for its blue-tiled interior, which is a hallmark of Islamic architecture. While the first mosque in Istanbul was built in the 8th century, the Blue Mosque is considered the first example of the “Ottoman style” of mosque architecture, which has influenced Islamic architecture ever since. The Blue Mosque has been featured in countless films and photo shoots and remains a well-known architectural landmark in the world.

Sumayru’s Clay Architecture

Sumayru’s (also known as Sumeru) architecture is a style of Islamic architecture that flourished in South Asia between the 16th and 17th centuries. The style was characterized by a distinct use of brick architecture, with buildings and structures made from clay bricks and baked in kilns. Sumayru’s architecture is a famous example of Islamic architecture in a part of the world where the art was not traditionally practiced. The architectural style is named after the region it was practiced in, the Telangana region of modern-day Andhra Pradesh, and the architect Sumayru’s who is thought to have played a large role in its development and spread. The distinct architecture of Sumayru’s was an attempt to imitate the architecture of the Mughal Empire, which ruled the area at the time. The style remained in practice until the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire was supplanted by the British in South Asia, after which it was largely abandoned by locals.

Conclusion

The artistic traditions of Islam are often overshadowed by the architectural achievements of the Mughal Empire, who practiced much of their art in the Indian subcontinent. However, Islamic art and architecture are as diverse and rich as any other artistic tradition. It is an artistic tradition with roots in many parts of the world and one that has influenced countless other artistic practices. While these 7 examples may not be the most famous Islamic artworks in history, they certainly represent a small sampling of the rich global artistic traditions that contributed to Islamic inspired Art.

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