Islamic Art and its Cultural Implications

I was traveling in Istanbul last week the majority of the art I encountered was Islamic Art. As seen in the pictures I took below, there are many elements of repetition.

Interestingly enough, this notion of balance and repetition manifests in the idea of an arabesque, or a form of artistic decoration consisting of “surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils”. 

In an arabesque, there are various meanings within the patterns. One meaning is that the pattern are composed of symbols which signify various principles. One such example is a repeated square. In this case, the square is the agent of the arabesque; where the four sides symbolize the four important elements of nature: earth, wind, fire, and water. The second meaning is the flowing nature of plant forms, where a shape of a plant is an agent of the arabesque; signifying the idea of life giving. Finally, the third meaning of an arabesque is it’s relation to calligraphy, an expression of  what may be considered the highest art in Islamic culture- that of the spoken word (the transmittal of thought and history), which symbolizes how the sacred religious text of the Qu’ran was passed down.

The unity of these three meanings through the repetition of the arabesque represents the cultural significance of its repetition.


Interior of the Sulemaniyue Mosque


Inner courtyard of the Blue Mosque


Interior of the Blue Mosque


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