Perennial Values in Islamic Art

Topics: Islam, Qur'an, Arabesque Pages: 12 (4669 words) Published: May 6, 2013
Perennial Values in Islamic Art
|نويسنده : تيتوس بوركهارت | | |منبع : Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 1, No. 3. | | |زبان : انگليسي |نسخه قابل چاپ | |تاريخ درج مقاله : چهار‌شنبه 28 آذر 1386 |[pic] | |موضوعات مقاله : هنر سنتي | |

|MUCH has been written about the formation of Islamic art from pre-existing elements, of Byzantine, Persian, Hindu and | |Mongolian origin. But very little has been said about the nature of the power which wrought all those various elements into | |a unique synthesis. Nobody will deny the unity of Islamic art, either in time or in space; it is far too evident: whether | |one contemplates the mosque of Cordoba or the great madrasah of Samarkand, whether it be the tomb of a saint in the Maghreb | |or one in Chinese Turkestan, it is as if one and the same light shone forth from all these works of art. What then is the | |nature of this unity? The religious law of Islam does not prescribe any particular forms of art; it merely restricts the | |field of their expression, and restrictions are not creative in themselves. On the other hand, it is misleading, to say the | |least, if one simply attributes this unity to "religious feeling" as one often does. However intense an emotion may be, it | |will never be able to shape a whole world of forms into a harmony which is at the same time rich and sober, overwhelming and| |precise. It is not by chance that the unity and regularity of Islamic art reminds us of the law working in crystals: there | |is something that evidently surpasses the mere power of emotion, which is necessarily vague and always fluctuating. We shall| |call it the "intellectual vision" inherent in Islamic art, taking "intellect" in its original meaning as a faculty far more | |comprehensive than reason or thought, a faculty involving the intuition of timeless realities. This is also the meaning of | |al-`aql in Islamic tradition: faith is not complete unless it be illuminated by al-'aql which alone grasps the implications | |of at-tawhīd, the doctrine of divine Unity. In a similar way, Islamic art derives its beauty from wisdom. | |The history of art, being a modern science, inevitably approaches Islamic art in the purely analytical way of all modern | |sciences, by dissection and reduction to historical circumstances. Whatever is timeless in an art—and sacred art like that | |of Islam always contains a timeless element—will be left out by such a method. One may object that all art is composed of | |forms and, since form is limited, it is necessarily subject to time; like all historical phenomena forms rise, develop, | |become corrupted and die; therefore the science of art is of necessity a historical science. But this is only one half of | |the truth: a form, though limited and consequently subject to time, may convey something timeless and in this respect escape| |historical conditions, not only in its genesis—which partly belongs to a spiritual dimension—but also in its preservation, | |to a certain extent at least, for it is with regard to their timeless meaning that certain forms have been preserved in | |spite of and against all material and psychic revolutions of an epoch; tradition means just that. | |On the other hand, modern history of art has derived most of its aesthetic criteria from classical Greek or from | |postmedieval art. Whatever its more recent evolution has been, it has always considered the individual as the real creator | |of art. In this view,...
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