The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Islamic Art

What is considered beautiful in Islamic art?

The Arabic word for “beautiful” is jamil. To be considered beautiful, Islamic art must be symmetrical, unified, and balanced. These aesthetic principles are also valued in classical Greek and Roman cultures, which influenced early Islamic art. An additional quality of Islamic art is that it should also be “astonishing.” The medieval philosopher Ibn-al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhazen, said visible objects are appealing due to the “composition and order of their parts among themselves” (as quoted in O’Riley 25). This attitude towards beauty helps to explain why Islamic art is often so intricate and detailed, and yet balanced and harmonious.


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