Monday, December 16, 2013

Islamic and Byzantine Rugs


I. Introduction
Beautiful handwoven rugs have become one of the defining pieces of art from the beginnings of the Islamic religion and Byzantine empire. According to the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, rug making in the 8th century to the 18th century prospered as the Islamic religion and Byzantine Empire sprang to life during the Ottoman and Mughal dynasties. Many people in the Islamic religion used prayer rugs, which they knelt on to pray five times a day. The rug shown in left photo above, an Islamic rug, was used in the 18th century as a prayer rug. It is a pashmina rug made of wool pile on cotton with a silk foundation. Incorporated into the rug are cypress trees and flowers which represented paradise to the Islamic people. There are approximately 700 knots per square inch, making it a very valuable and pristine piece of artwork.   

According to HistoryToday, the rug in the photo on the right was passed down during the Byzantine empire from a prosperous emperor, most likely Heraclius. The 8th century tapestry was woven in three colors on a plain-weave background of undyed linen. These rugs have many similarities and differences, ranging from the shape, size, colors, materials and designs incorporated within the rugs, but both are considered beautiful in these two contrasting civilizations.

II. Islamic and Byzantine rugs show some resemblances in their appearance, but they also have very different characteristics.
A. The two most striking similarities in appearance between the two rugs of these civilizations are apparent in the photos here that show similar colors and border designs.
1. Bright colors; reds and blues dominant (now faded in Byzantine example)
2. Border designs include leaves or vines, flowers and plant motifs
3. Creative outlet for women in both civilizations
B. Islamic and Byzantine rugs contrast distinctly in their vastly different styles, patterns and fabric options.
1. Fabric used for rug making
2. Patterns that incorporated people and events v. medallion pattern
3. Symbolism v. memorialization

IIII. Islamic and Byzantine rugs were used for some of the same purposes, but because of their religious connections, Islamic rugs had an additional purpose that was very different from the purposes of Byzantine rugs.
A. Islamic and Byzantine rugs were used in similar ways, both as practical floor coverings and as a representation of one's status.
1. Floor coverings because floors were not nice; they were cold and dirty
2. Signs of owner’s wealth, prestige and fine craftsmanship
B.  Used for completely different reasons, Islamic and Byzantine rugs were made even more versatile and symbolic in both cultures.
1. Prayer rug for religious purposes in the Islamic religion
2. Tapestry for decoration in the Byzantine Empire

IV. Conclusion: Considering their unique similarities and differences, handwoven rugs from the Islamic and Byzantine civilizations take on an even greater significance as antiquities that represent some of the most beautiful creations of art from both these civilizations. Thanks to the high quality materials used in the rugs and expert craftsmanship of the weavers, many excellent examples of these beautiful works of art have been preserved and are displayed in museums around the world.   

Works Cited:

Siddiqui, Elisabeth. "Islamic Art." Islamic Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <>.

Nicholas, Dean. "Slideshow: Byzantium and Islam, Age of Transition." History Today. HistoryToday, 1 May 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <>.

"Textile fragment [Spain]" (58.85.1) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. <> (October 2006)  
Sardar, Marika. "Carpets from the Islamic World, 1600–1800". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. <> (October 2003)

"Prayer rug [Probably Kashmir, India]" (1970.302.7) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. <> (October 2006)

No comments:

Post a Comment