Islamic Art and Architecture, Paperback

Islamic Art and Architecture Paperback

Part of the World of Art S. series

1.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Covering a thousand years of history and an area stretching from the Atlantic to the borders of India and China, this text is a guide to the arts of Islam.

From the supreme confidence of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to the scores of exquisite buildings of Ottoman Istanbul; from the elegant palace complex of the Alhambra in Granada to the splendours of 17th-century Isfahan; from the virtuosity of Persian painting in the 15th century to the vivid ceramic tradition of Ottoman Iznik, the evolution of the range of Islamic arts is explored.

Supported by a glossary of Islamic terms, a timeline and maps which untangle the complex history of Islamic dynasties and their artistic achievements, the book traces the architecture, calligraphy, book illumination, painting, ceramics, textiles, metalwork and other art forms of this prolific civilization, whose works survive in abundance.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages, 270 illustrations, 80 in colour
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of art / art & design styles
  • ISBN: 9780500203057



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Hillenbrand has the unenviable task of summarizing the achievements of a heterogenous religious and artistic tradition over a long span of time and a wide geography. In under 300 small-format pages, the task of surveying Islamic art is mightily difficult, so it's not surprising that Hillenbrand's book comes up short. Although his scope is ostensibly Islamic art before the modern period, he omits discussion of a number of places, including, most egregiously, Mughal India--an almost unpardonable sin.The basic problem of the volume is encapsulated in the chapter on the Saljuqs. The author hits hard on the theme of Saljuq art as marking a division in the broad scope of Islamic art history. But he never delivers on the particular dynamics of this cleavage and the chapter is mostly descriptive and parts are tedious to get through. The other chapters are generally livelier, but the author leaves himself precious little time to really discuss works of art in any depth. Hillenbrand is so determined to include the full range of minor arts that he leaves less room for the major monuments that typically--and rightfully, I think--anchor a broad survey. The epitome of this pattern is set at the beginning: the first great Islamic monument, the Dome of the Rock, is treated in just one paragraph. That a monument of its caliber both in terms of artistic merit and historical and religious importance should receive less space than a discussion of early Islamic coins surely upsets the cosmic order of things. Being a historian of architecture, I expected Hillenbrand's discussion of buildings to be among the more compelling parts of the book, but on this count he disappoints perhaps more than on any other. The functional and symbolic aspects of many parts of Islamic buildings are rarely discussed at length and never satisfactorily explained. In my book, this is a capital offense.This is not to say that the book as a whole presents a poor overview of the subject; it's simply too cursory to really satisfy and for that reason I cannot recommend it. Annoying also is the inconsistency of identifying information in the captions of the images. This is a problem in many of the World of Art books, but it is simply inexcusable to illustrate artworks without basic identifying information such as conventional titles and dates, especially when they are not keyed directly to the text. Please, Thames & Hudson, revise your standards on this matter!

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