Arts of the Islamic world

The Medieval period

This period saw the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, and the rise of the powerful Timurid empire.

c. 900 - 1517 C.E.

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<em>Bahram Gur Fights the Karg (Horned Wolf)</em>,  Ilkhanid dynasty
Bahram Gur Fights the Karg (Horned Wolf), Ilkhanid dynasty

In this hunting scene from the Persian Book of Kings, the ruler Bahram lives up to his nickname “Gur,” or swift.

Mohammed ibn al-Zain, Basin (<em>Baptistère de Saint Louis</em>)
Mohammed ibn al-Zain, Basin (Baptistère de Saint Louis)

Vessels like this one were typically decorated with calligraphy, but a procession of figures is featured here.

Mihrab from Isfahan (Iran)
Mihrab from Isfahan (Iran)

This prayer niche once pointed students towards Mecca. Its blue and white patterns comprise verses from the Qur’an.

Two Royal Figures (Saljuq period)
Two Royal Figures (Saljuq period)

These stucco statues, with vivid costumes and distinctive round faces, may once have guarded a grand hall.

Coronation Mantle
Coronation Mantle

Made for a Christian ruler by Islamic artisans, this cloak is full of Islamic motifs and cosmological references.

Mamluk Qur’an
Mamluk Qur’an

The Islamic world turned writing into an art, but it’s the decoration, not the script, that sets these folios apart.

<em>Bahram Gur in a Peasant’s House</em>
Bahram Gur in a Peasant’s House

These two paintings illustrate the same story, but in different styles—as rulers changed, so did tastes for art.

The Alhambra
The Alhambra

This city within a city is famed for its three highly decorative palaces and their equally elaborate gardens.

Pyxis of al-Mughira
Pyxis of al-Mughira

This florid box, designed to hold cosmetics, attests to the rich ivory carving tradition of Islamic Spain.

Folio from a Qur’an
Folio from a Qur’an

The lavish materials used for this manuscript convey both its patron’s wealth and the sacred text’s dignity.

The Great Mosque (or Masjid-e Jameh) of Isfahan
The Great Mosque (or Masjid-e Jameh) of Isfahan

This sprawling and magnificent mosque, in Iran, has been an integral part of the city’s fabric for centuries.

Arts of the Islamic world: The medieval period
Arts of the Islamic world: The medieval period

New rulers emerged, and with them, distinctive styles of art. This period saw a renaissance in the decorative arts.

Selected Contributors | The Medieval period