The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture
The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture by Professor Nasser D. Khalili, published by Worth Press in November 2005, is a major new work which provides a comprehensive overview of the arts of Islam for the general reader. Never before has there been a publication that brings every aspect of this vast subject together both geographically and chronologically. Through its ingenious format, The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture presents the magnificent sweep of the arts of Islam in an attractive and accessible way.
The Islamic era began in the year 622 AD with the Hijra, (or emigration) of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. Within little more than a few decades of the Prophet’s death in 632, Islam had already spread to territories stretching from the Atlantic to the China Sea and from North Africa to the frontiers of Siberia and, within a few centuries, sizeable Muslim communities had been established across an even wider area. Civilisations of very different religious, historic and artistic backgrounds were thus united under Islam. The culture of the Muslim peoples is accordingly rich and varied, encompassing vast architectural projects, minutely detailed miniature paintings, exquisitely patterned silk textiles and bold, sophisticated calligraphy.
The term ‘Islamic art’ broadly describes works produced by Muslim artists for Muslim patrons. ‘Islamic’ does not imply that the art is exclusively religious in content or use, indeed a significant portion is secular. It is ‘Islamic’ because its artistic vocabulary is partly rooted in Muslim philosophical thought and shaped to some extent by the spirit and doctrines of the Muslim faith. This is why it can be discussed as a whole in spite of the wide geographical area in which it was produced and the fact that Muslim artists and architects have been influenced and enriched by the artistic traditions of the other cultures with which they came into contact.
Paramount in importance and status is calligraphy and the role it played both as an art form in its own right and in the decoration of other art works and buildings. As the medium through which the Qur’an was recorded, the Arabic script acted as a spiritually unifying factor. Another important characteristic of Islamic art is the extensive use of scrollwork, arabesques, geometric motifs and interlace patterns. However, contrary to popular assumption, figural imagery also plays an important role in Islamic art. Although Islamic traditions prohibit the representation of human beings and animals in a religious context, the rule does not extend to secular art. It is misconceptions such as this that this publication will help to dispel.
Until now, histories of the art of Islamic lands have either been very general or highly focused on particular regions or types of artifact, so that a whole range of books has needed to be consulted to fit the vast jigsaw puzzle together. In The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture, the 16 spectacular pages of the Timeline itself present a chronological overview of the major developments in Islamic art and architecture and enable the reader to see at a glance what was happening in the different countries of Islam during the same period. The Timeline is divided into five main geographical regions: North Africa and Spain; the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula); Asia Minor (Turkey); Iran and Central Asia (including Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics); and the Indian subcontinent. This arrangement is based both upon regional styles of art and architecture and spheres of political power as they stood until the late 19th/early 20th centuries and does not take account of modern national boundaries. Dates are presented according to both the Islamic and Western calendars. Diverse developments throughout the Islamic world can be compared simultaneously across time and place, and specific objects and buildings seen in the light of key events in Muslim history. The publication has more than 750 colour images showing the magnificence of Islamic architecture as well as exquisite objects, the majority from The Khalili Collection, one of the world’s most important and comprehensive private collections of Islamic art.
Following the Timeline are fourteen lavishly illustrated chapters devoted to architecture and to individual arts - calligraphy, Qur’an manuscripts, miniature painting, bookbinding, lacquer, pottery, glass, metalwork, scientific instruments, jewellery, arms and armour, carpets and textiles, and coins. The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture also contains a section devoted to the histories of the major dynasties of the Islamic world, with lists of the most important rulers. A four-page gatefold map gives the locations of historical and cultural sites, and the Muslim calendar and dating system are explained. The main text is supplemented by a glossary of key Islamic and art historical terms, a list of the major collections of Islamic art in museums, galleries and private collections throughout the world, suggestions for further reading, and an index. Finally, in a pocket at the back of the book is a rotating wheel, on one side of which the reader can see landmark achievements of Islamic art and on the other find key facts about the modern Islamic nations.
Professor Nasser D. Khalili is a scholar, collector and benefactor of international standing. He was born in Iran. After completing his schooling and national service there, in 1967 he moved to the USA where he continued his education. In 1978 he settled in the United Kingdom. Khalili is a frequent lecturer on Islamic art and has made many notable contributions to its scholarship, having endowed in 1989, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London, the first chair devoted to the decorative arts of Islam to be founded at any university. He has also supported a research fellowship in Islamic art at the University of Oxford. More recently, The Khalili Family Trust made a significant endowment to the University of Oxford to establish and support the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East, which opened in 2005. Khalili has been honoured for his interfaith work, and is a co-founder and Chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims.
Since 1970 Khalili has assembled, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, a number of impressive and wide-ranging art collections which include, in addition to his comprehensive collection of the arts of the Islamic world, Japanese art of the Meiji period, Spanish damascened metalwork and Swedish textiles. He writes in his preface to The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture: “I see these collections as a means by which I can promote a better understanding of the cultures that produced them. … My hope is that my work in this area will lead to a greater understanding between religions, based on education.”
Professor J.M. Rogers, Honorary Curator of The Khalili Collection, formerly of the British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, notes in his foreword: “It is time to turn to the achievements of Islamic culture, notably to the art and architecture of Islam, which over the centuries has contributed no less than Islamic science to the West. … The present overview for the interested non-specialist, taking account of both the history and geographical range of Islamic cultures, is thus timely. It will be read with profit by anyone anxious to discover more of the major contribution of Islam to the history of world culture.”
Worth Press Ltd was started in 1997 by Ken and Rupert Webb to publish a series of Timecharts which use paper engineering in the form of gatefolds, flaps and concertina pages to portray periods of history or subjects in a contemporaneous manner. Before The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture, Worth Press has published Timechart histories on World Architecture, Jewish Civilisation, America, Germany and Medicine, amongst others.
Title: The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture
Publication date: November 2005
ISBN: 1 903025 17 6
Price: £30.00 UK edition
No. of pages: 186
Illustrations: approximately 750
Size: 372 x 254 mm