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Islamic Art (animal images)
About two centuries ago, there were no enough literature on Islam arts had no real writing. The term Islamic Art is a term used to mean the arts that were made from artists whose main religion was Islam. Since most of these artists lived in Muslim lands, their arts would revolve around the Muslim doctrine. Islam art started as early as the fourteenth century. Since its start, there has been very little artwork done on animals by such artists. However, of late there has been a turn of events, with Islamic calligraphy on animals filling museum buildings. Through the use of calligraphy, most of the Muslim artists have now managed to create shapes echoing plants and animals in their natural images. Some of these artworks have been preserved are can be found in museums. Here are some of the Islamic arts of animal models. Animals have innumerable representations of the Islamic arts and artifacts. For example, an animal rug from an Islamic state has been preserved at the Metropolitan Museum since 1990, therefore, signifying how treasured it was to the Muslims.
According to the Islamic religion, cats are considered a religious group of animals. They have been persecuted as evils or worshiped as gods. At the beginning of her book, “Cats of Cairo”, Lorraine Chittock paraphrases the words of Annemarie, who talks of how cats were treasured in Cairo as early as 1830s. The tradition has then continued along the streets of Cairo. Cats are so common among the Muslims. In the early days, almost everyone in the Arab fraternity kept cats. They gained respect as members of families. This extended even to the Muslim arts industry, where we come to interact with a number of cats in the form of Muslim artwork. Most of the Muslims artists, especially the calligraphers valued cats because their brushes were made from long furs of some species of cats (Gelfer-Jørgensen 15). Some of the Islamic arts that depict cats are shown below.
. Figure 1. An Ottoman miniature (Stone World 93) Figure 2. “Salman of Sawa”, Cartoons of rat & cat (Stone World 93).
In addition, high regard for cats was not only seen in paintings, but lso among the legends. In the Islamic fraternity, cats were adored because even Prophet loved cats. There has been a number of legendary myths in Islam with regards to arts. First, the right spirit referred to as Qariinna is believed the nature of a household pet, especially the cat. It is believed that Qariinna dwells in cat especially at night. Therefore, a lot of care are taken in defense of the new born against such spirit. The second Islamic myth that relates cat is that of Shah Ismail Safavi. It is believed that this spirit of divine inspiration comes from a miraculous cat that acts as his car. As much as cats are considered as a precious animal in the Islamic religion, it is also one of the forgotten figures. There are also records of facilities built to protect the cat.
Lion is another animal that has been ordained by a number of Islamic arts. A lot of books and paintings have been done on the lion in the Islamic religion. A number of books have covered not only the scientific objectives of lions, but also the Islamic religious aspects. A good example that talks of a lion in an Islamic context is Al Jahiz’s “Kitab Al Hayawan” which says; “and the Lion profits so much due to it being the king of beasts. This has given it a way of approaching war elephants.” The author used the terms lion and elephant metaphorically to symbolize the courage and trouble respectively. In the Islamic drawing below (Figure 3), the lion over the cow is fit the text: “Lion shall be the king of the beast. It shall eat the carcass of any animals, starting by drinking the animal’s blood. After drinking blood, it shall open the carcass’s stomach and feed on its food, saliva, intestines and the intestinal contents.” (Al Jahiz 1323-24).
Figure 3. A drawing of a lioness feeding on a carcass of a cow ().
The picture has been used to show the mighty of the lion, who has authority over all animals since it’s the king of the beast. According to the Muslim, the might of lion can symbolize the might of Allah. The lion is such a widespread symbol attached to a unique yet unnecessary genealogy. In a number of combat motifs, the lion is a symbol of mighty (Ettinghausen 34). Another context where a lion can be found in the Muslim arts context is the motif of lions on the throne. Two lions often seated on the throne are symbols of reigning mighty. Although it lacks symbolism in Muslim, this motif’s history is traced back to the scene of the Tasmanian throne. In addition, the sculpture at the Khirbat al-Major bears a motif of a lion that symbolizes the king. Within all cultures and religions like Muslim, the lion is one of the most used symbols due to the royal nature of the lion.
The Sphinx is also amongst the Islamic arts which have been done by a number of Islamic artists. In her book, “Sphinxes and Harpies in Medieval Islamic Art,” of 1965, Baer provides a penetrating discussion of a number of the animal motifs in the Islamic arts. She tries to trace the history of some of these motifs. She ascertains that the motif of the sphinx has an active connection to the Muslim’s Tree of Life. She also achieved the detailed discussion of the association of the sphinx as a solar animal and the minds the Muslims. According to the Muslims, a solar animal is an animal regarded as a celestial animal that belongs to the upper world. Apparently, such animals are reminders of the eternal life. They are used to symbolize and wish a real life. For this reason, the sphinx has been greatly treasured and done in the Muslim arts world. Thus, sphinx’s drawings is a treasure of symbolism of eternity.
A griffin is a notion of a hybrid of two or more animals. In Cefalu, a drawing of two identical Griffins has been formed and placed strategically. Upon a keen study, the Griffin has a body of a lion and a bird’s head. Sometimes, they would use winged mammal. In an article of significance to the Muslim religion, Khazai categorizes the Cefalu’s Griffin into four significant areas. The first category is a depiction of the carving as a powerful force in the battlefield. Secondly, the Griffin would represent the guide, the Griffin as god’s messenger and also as a guardian of the Tree of Life, which also appears in the Muslim’s doctrine. Another widely discussed Griffin is the Umayyad in Matta, Jordan. The statue was built in 743. It’s believed that Umayyad acts as a source of inspiration to the Muslims. Another griffin motif that is famous in the history of the Muslim arts is the bronze griffin, found in Pisa’s Campo Santo.
Figure 4. The Identical Griffins in Cefalu (Gelfer-Jørgensen 121)
Just like other animals, the deer’s motif is a standard artwork in Islamic art. The deer might seem fruitless in providing the scholar with relevant and symbolic connection to Muslim religion. It beats logic to rob some of these motifs that have displayed consistency for a long time. Therefore, as much as the motif has been spotted in most of the Muslim arts, it is used for decorative purposes alone. Possibly, the deer would be used to signify a part of the Islamic tradition, may be extremely long to be easily remembered. It would be in order to understand that Islamic art is not so superficial. Therefore, the use of deer would bear some meaning that is still withheld. One of the most ancient deer that has been discussed severally is mentioned in the Khirbat al-Major (Stierlin 75).
Figure 5: A deer on a Lustre-painted bowl (Gelfer-Jørgensen 125)
In conclusion, Islamic art encompasses a lot of animal paintings that bears innumerable symbols. Since such artworks started storming the industry, they have been used for great occasions and moments as memoirs that bear a lot of significances. Although done in the Islamic arts, such drawings and paintings have been used to pass significant facts across all the cultural and religious affiliations. Therefore, Islamic art is not restricted to the religious arts alone, but they are open to any culture and religious society as well.
Gelfer-Jørgensen, Mirjam. Medieval Islamic Symbolism and the Paintings in the Cefalù Cathedral: - - Dansk Resumé. - . - 16 S. Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1986:120 -136 Print.
Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins. Islamic Art and Architecture 650-1250. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001:34 Print.
Stierlin, Henri, and Anne Stierlin. Islamic Art and Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002:56-85 Print.
Jāḥiẓ, and ʻAbd -S. M. Hārūn. Al-ʻuthmānīyah. Miṣr: Dāral-Kitāb al-ʻArabī, 1955. Print.
New museum of Islamic arts is rising in Qatar. (2005). Stone World, 22(11), 92-95. Retrieved from
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