The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival

Paperback | July 1, 2002

byYasser Tabbaa

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The transformation of Islamic architecture and ornament during the eleventh and twelfth centuries signaled profound cultural changes in the Islamic world. Yasser Tabbaa explores with exemplary lucidity the geometric techniques that facilitated this transformation, and investigates the cultural processes by which meaning was produced within the new forms. Iran, Iraq, and Syria saw the development of proportional calligraphy, vegetal and geometric arabesque, muqarnas (stalactite) vaulting, and other devices that became defining features of medieval Islamic architecture. Ultimately, the forms and themes described in this book shaped the development of Mamluk architecture in Egypt and Syria, and by extension, the entire course of North African and Andalusian architecture as well.

These innovations developed and were disseminated in a highly charged atmosphere of confrontation between the Seljuk and post-Seljuk proponents of the traditionalist Sunni revival and their main opponents in Fatimid Egypt. These forms stood as visual signs of allegiance to the orthodox Abbasid caliphate and of difference from the heterodox Fatimids. Tabbaa proposes that their rapid spread throughout the Islamic world operated within a system of reciprocating, ceremonial gestures, which conveyed a new and formal language that helped negotiate the gap between the myth of a unified Sunni Islam and its actual political fragmentation.

In subject matter and approach, The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival makes original contributions to the study of art, revealing that this relatively neglected sector of medieval art and architecture is of critical importance for reevaluating the entire field of Islamic studies. It challenges the essentialist and positivist approaches that still permeate the study of Islamic art, and offers a historical and semiotic alternative for exploring meaning within ruptures of change.

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The transformation of Islamic architecture and ornament during the eleventh and twelfth centuries signaled profound cultural changes in the Islamic world. Yasser Tabbaa explores with exemplary lucidity the geometric techniques that facilitated this transformation, and investigates the cultural processes by which meaning was produced wi...

Yasser Tabbaa , who specializes in Islamic art and architecture, teaches in the Department of Art at Oberlin College in Ohio.

other books by Yasser Tabbaa

The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival
The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revi...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9.98 × 7.06 × 0.53 inPublished:July 1, 2002Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295981334

ISBN - 13:9780295981338

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Table of Contents

List of illustrationsPreface and AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Sunni Revival2. The Transformation of Qur'anic Writing3. The Public Text4. The Girih Mode: Vegetal and Geometric Arabesque5. Muqarnas Vaulting and Ash'ari Occasionalism6. Stone Muqarnas and Other Special Devices7. Conclusion: The Mediation of Symbolic FormsAbbreviationsNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

The transformation of Islamic architecture and ornament during the eleventh and twelfth centuries signaled profound cultural changes in the Islamic world. Yasser Tabbaa explores with exemplary lucidity the geometric techniques that facilitated this transformation, and investigates the cultural processes by which meaning was produced within the new forms. Iran, Iraq, and Syria saw the development of proportional calligraphy, vegetal and geometric arabesque, muqarnas (stalactite) vaulting, and other devices that became defining features of medieval Islamic architecture. Ultimately, the forms and themes described in this book shaped the development of Mamluk architecture in Egypt and Syria, and by extension, the entire course of North African and Andalusian architecture as well.These innovations developed and were disseminated in a highly charged atmosphere of confrontation between the Seljuk and post-Seljuk proponents of the traditionalist Sunni revival and their main opponents in Fatimid Egypt. These forms stood as visual signs of allegiance to the orthodox Abbasid caliphate and of difference from the heterodox Fatimids. Tabbaa proposes that their rapid spread throughout the Islamic world operated within a system of reciprocating, ceremonial gestures, which conveyed a new and formal language that helped negotiate the gap between the myth of a unified Sunni Islam and its actual political fragmentation.In subject matter and approach, The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival makes original contributions to the study of art, revealing that this relatively neglected sector of medieval art and architecture is of critical importance for reevaluating the entire field of Islamic studies. It challenges the essentialist and positivist approaches that still permeate the study of Islamic art, and offers a historical and semiotic alternative for exploring meaning within ruptures of change.This is a very useful book, both as history and as interpretation.... I have used it in a seminar on Islamic Art of the Period of the Crusades, and expect to use it next year in a course on the arts of Islam. Since I am in and out of the Crusader world, I expect I’ll call on it recurrently. Thank you for publishing it. Tabbaa’s work is valuable. - Annemarie Carr, University Distinguished Professor, Division of Art History, Southern Methodist University