Decorative Textiles from Arab & Islamic Cultures: Selected Works From the Al Lulwa Collection

by Jennifer Wearden & Jennifer Scarce

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One of the most distinctive features of Islamic design is the evolution of an increasingly abstract and repetitive repertoire of motifs, which are shared among all media – metalwork, woodwork, ceramics, tilework and textiles. In textiles the main themes are based on angular and geometric shapes – vertical and horizontal striped bands; hexagons and octagons, which can be linked and infinitely extended; stylized and rhythmic scrolls of foliage and flowers; and Arabic calligraphy, of which the letters can be formed into continuous borders, panels and medallions. These motifs can be used separately or combined into complex patterns, of which the repetitive and two-dimensional features are ideal for textile production, especially where varying lengths are required – for hangings, curtains, robes and shawls. Valued for their role in the subtleties of court ceremonial and fashion, these textiles were also much admired beyond the Islamic lands.

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