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Islamic Sculptures

Islamic sculpture includes a rich history of Islamic empires spanning about 1,300 years. Due to its long history and vast geographic spread, Islamic sculpture has been subject to a range of regional and national influences that have contributed to its unique development.

Unlike art of the Western world, sculpture began as a relatively minor art form in the Islamic world. Because of the Quran's ban on idols, referred to as "aniconism," the earliest Islamic sculptures were usually small and portable and constructed from glass or metal. However, as Islam spread to different parts of the world, it gradually adapted to various cultures.

As the art form adapted, Islamic sculptures began to portray subjects such as magnificent beasts and warriors while incorporating materials such as metalwork, glass blowing, and ceramics. Today, contemporary Islamic sculpture is capable of being both abstract and keeping with Islam's teachings if the artist so chooses. One popular contemporary Islamic artist, Sahand Hesamiyan, creates large, abstract sculptures that challenge the popular pre-conceived perception of Islamic art as decorative.

Quick Facts

  • A common misconception of early art of the Islamic world is that sculpture did not exist due to aniconism. Contrary to popular belief, the private residences of many sovereigns featured sculptures
  • Islamic sculptures have great geographic diversity, spanning territories from Spain to western China
  • One basic unifying characteristic seen in much of Islamic sculpture is the use of calligraphy. This can often be seen covering the entire work. The use of calligraphy in Islamic sculpture varies depending on the specific period and region of the object

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