Calligraphy: The Art of Script By Adam Dearstine

In this gallery we'll explore the use of calligraphy in the Islamic world. It can be found adorning temples, in writing, household items and clothing. Calligraphy or beautiful writing is one of three principle forms of artistic expression in the Islamic world. Calligraphy was not only reserved for religious work, calligraphic inscription’s can be found in poems, aphorisms, or praise for rulers. It is a highly adaptable script; it has been adapted to every possible surface from stone to textiles. Islamic calligraphy comes in multiple styles. The first formal style of calligraphy is known as Kufic named after the city Kufah in Iraq developed in the late 8th century. It was used in many early Qur’an manuscripts and inscriptions. Calligraphy as been continuously refined over the years, by the 10th century an additional six scripts had been created thuluth, muhaqqaq, naskh, rayhani, tauqi, and riqa and used for literary, religious and administrative works. It is written from left to right, containing 28 letters, with minor adjustments for Persian, Urdu, and Ottoman Turkish languages. Letters consist of 17 basic forms of vertical and horizontal strokes, then modified with a series of dots above or below with four letters serving as long vowels with short vowels appearing as diacritical marks. Letters are usually found linked together in various configurations depending on their position in the word.

Turkish tiles hold a special place in Islamic art history. Frequently used as architectural decoration. These were typically used as indoor decorations coming in various shapes such as square, rectangular, hexagonal, and triangular and arranged to produce a multitude of geometric patterns often adorned with floral motifs or Kufic or Thuluth calligraphy, in colors ranging from black to turquois.
In this piece the calligraphy itself becomes a mosaic tile. These tiles are cut to shape and arranged in a variety of patterns. Typically used in indoor applications such as mihrab niches, the interiors of domes, transitions to domes, vaults, and walls.
This piece brings the various components of Islamic tile work together. The primary focus is the Quranic inscriptions, which are then decorated, in traditional Islamic style with repetitive tile patterns with a floral motif.
In this piece we see a Quran written in calligraphy. Not only is the main body of the pages written using calligraphy it was also used as decoration on the pages. It is believed that through the act of writing the Koran, the word of God was recorded and given visual form
This is another great example of how calligraphy was used in support of religious texts. This Quran folio was created using the Kufic form of calligraphy. The page itself doesn't contain an religious motifs but still makes a power impression with its flowing calligraphy.
Calligraphy was not reserved for only religious purposes. The Diwan of Jami Manuscript is an early collection of mystical poems and lyrics of Jami, compiled during the poet's lifetime. This illuminated manuscript combines the art of calligraphy with figures influenced by Mongol art.
Calligraphy was also used to adorn garments and battle attire. Here we see steel helmet decorated with calligraphy starting at the base of the helmet spiraling it's way to the top holding true to the geometric patters prevalent in the Islamic world. Calligraphy as ornament while holding an aesthetic appeal would often include underlying talismanic component.
We further see use of calligraphy used to decorate accessories worn at the time. In this piece we see an 8 pointed star flowing from the center of the belt buckle then encased with calligraphy on each side in a talismanic fashion.
Calligraphy wasn't only used to decorate temples or religious texts. It was also found in people’s homes as decoration. In this wooden door panel from the Timurid period, similar to a relief sculpture we can see the calligraphic script precisely carved in the wood, then decorated with an intricate vine pattern.
One of the most sacred of Islamic textiles is the kiswa. It is used to cover the Kaaba(house of Allah) door in Mecca, one of Islam's holiest sites. Quarnic verses are skillfully embroidered using various calligraphic forms using threads of pure gold and silver. Each part of the cloth contains a different design telling a different story.
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