Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sign of the Times

Magnet # 23:  Signature of the Sultan

Material:  Stained Glass

Purchased by:  Dad

It's a rare magnet that has me questioning whether or not I posted it with the correct side up, but this one makes me wonder.  If somebody out there knows it's wrong, please clue me in.

My Dad picked this up during a day long layover in Turkey this year.  He said it's the signature of the Turkish Sultan.  He's just not sure which Sultan's signature this is.  I love that it's been printed on such colorful stained glass instead of a more ordinary background, like paper.  I can't help but think of this as a piece of Islamic art.

I knew very little about Islamic art before I studied it as part of my art history curriculum in college.  What I found out was pretty interesting.  Because they were forbidden by their religion from depicting humans and animals in their work, Muslim artists took their work in a direction completely different from that of traditional Western art.  They created intricate, often interwoven line work and shapes based upon floral images, geometric shapes, and their own alphabet.  While calligraphy was also portrayed in the West, it was often simply used to accompany and explain other, more important images.   Arabic art made text the focal point.  Beautiful pieces of art might simply consist of a multitude of letters forming one complex shape.  Entire surfaces might be covered by these designs.  What's depicted on this magnet is really just a taste of how developed Arabic art can get.

One good example of their art that is well-known to Westerners is Persian rugs.  Most people are familiar with the intricacy of the designs on these furnishings and many will pay a good amount of money to obtain one for their homes.  Islamic mosques are also adorned with very intricate accents that are characteristic of the style.  Think of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - it's filled with fantastic examples of Islamic art.

If you're curious to find out more about this wonderful art form, you can start with a Web image search, then perhaps check out what books your library or Amazon have on the subject.  Still craving more?  Maybe try a trip to an Islamic country like Turkey to see these works in person is in order.  Just be sure to pick up a souvenir!

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