Renaissance vs. Islamic Art

Topics: Renaissance, Islam, Middle Ages Pages: 5 (2129 words) Published: November 11, 2012
Mirriam Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects”. It is a broad definition, because nothing about art is specific. Art has many different meanings, takes many different forms, and achieves many different things. Culture, including religion, greatly influences art. The artistic works of a culture may reflect a lifestyle, language, religion, or belief of said culture. Some would consider the heart of art in our modern world to be Europe, specifically, Italy. This is logical, seeing as how Italy is famous for a time period called the Renaissance which was a vital turning point in the history of art in the world. The Renaissance period of time immediately followed the middle ages. During the middle ages, people had no concept of individuality, and there was no focus on mankind. Instead, the focus narrowly on God, celestial beings, and the afterlife. All things that happened were considered a mystery that only God could understand or be involved in. Because of the reliance on religion, people did not venture into thinking about science or how things really worked. The Renaissance was named as its own time period in order to signify the end of medieval thinking of the middle ages. Important aspects of the Renaissance include secularism and humanism, which were concentrations on human capability and a furthering from the all-encompassing spiritual norms. Art during the Renaissance sought to apply humanistic methods to Christianity. As people began to concentrate less on the ideal and more on what was realistic, they began to paint in a realistic fashion which included portraits, and human figures which were proportionate. What’s more is not only that they were painted realistically, but that average humans would be depicted in art in the first place. Although the Renaissance was secular, and concentrated on humans rather than deities, there are many Italian paintings with religious subjects. Italy didn’t live in a little bubble of scientific, humanistic advancement. While the Renaissance took place, Italian culture was somewhat challenged by Islamic culture when the Ottoman Turks made an attempt to conquer Europe. Ottoman rulers such as Mehmet and Suleiman are, in my opinion, responsible for the spread of Islamic art and culture from Persia to Algeria. As the Ottoman empire grew, its art and culture flourished under the rule of a select few rulers. Although the art grew and flourished, it still had its roots in Islamic faith, meaning it still followed the “rules” of the Muslim religion. The Ottoman empire’s occupation of South-east Europe and domination of the Mediterranean were tools which unintentionally spread Islamic culture to Europe, Italy included. When a group attempts to colonize an area, they (though sometimes inadvertently) spread their culture to said area. This is usually done through propaganda and artwork. The similarities between Islamic art and art in Renaissance Italy results from the fact that many elements of Islamic art spread to Italy during the spread of the Ottoman Empire into Europe. We can see many purely Islamic elements in European art in the Renaissance time period. To begin with, the Muslims are responsible for bringing glass, ceramics, and pottery to Italy. The development of glass and ceramics began in the Middle East. Using these mediums, they developed techniques such as gazing, gliding, qualities of color, and sparkle in order to add an artistic dimension to every day necessities. When the Muslims invaded Europe and held an Italian city, Italians learned to make ceramics, and then followed the Islamic way of adding sparkle to their glass and gold to their ceramic pieces. The Italians were influenced by, not only the artistic medium itself, but also the decorations on Islamic art. A cardinal characteristic of Islamic art is an inclination towards covering surfaces with patterns composed of vegetal and/or...
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