For over 1,300 years,’ Ettinghausen says, `the worlds of Islam and of Europe have been in more or less constant, dynamic relationship, and often tense confrontation. But in spite of violent denigration of the Muslim religion and its Prophet  (as seen in chapter one), the West has had nothing but admiration for the arts of the Near East. It manifested itself in the association of whatever was available of this art with its most revered institutions, whether sacred or mundane, and in artistic borrowings of one type or another by the West from the East.’[1]

Not everything, though, was borrowed from Islam. Far from it, in fact. In Islamic art, there is no sanctified iconography of the Prophet  of Islam paralleling that of Christ, the Holy Family, and of the saints, within the iconographic repertory of the Roman Catholic or the Greek  Orthodox Church.[2] Besides, as Ettinghausen holds, Awn Ibn Abi-Juhayfah reported that:

`The Prophet  forbade men to take the price of blood or the price of a dog, or the earnings of a prostitute, and he cursed the tattooing woman and the woman who had herself tattooed, the usurer, and the man who let usury be taken from him, and he cursed the painter.'[3]

Hence the painter at the same level as usurer, and the earnings of the prostitute. Everyone, on the other hand, knows the elevated value of painting in Western culture.


 The Islamic artistic influence on the Christian West  did, however, take place, and in many aspects as the following outline will show. This influence is not, in fact, just purely artistic as most, if not all, previous studies have shown. Instead, it was crucial to the development of many early crafts and industries of Western Christendom , which aimed at reproducing Islamic objects and models. This is one of the main points that will be focused upon in this outline. Another point of focus, once more, is with regard to the patterns of influence, which repeat themselves, and are the same as other changes observed elsewhere. Before looking at these points, first it is looked at how Islamic art and aesthetics stimulated both admiration and artistic reproduction.

[1] R. Ettinghausen: Muslim Decorative Arts ; op cit; p. 13.

[2] R. Ettinghausen: The Character of Islamic Art; in The Arab heritage (N.A. Faris ed); op cit; pp 251-67; at p. 256.

[3] Ibid. p. 257.



Islamic Art: Admiration and Artistic Reproduction

 Medieval Western Christian admiration for Islamic arts and aesthetics is symbolised by the long list of Islamic art objects found amongst Western collections. Hence amongst the earliest in the British Museum in London is an Irish bronze gilded cross dating from the 9thcentury with a glass paste in the centre which has the Arabic phrase: `Bismillah’ (in the name of God) in Kufic letters, and in the Musee de Cluny at Paris, there is a silk fabric which came from the tomb of Bishop Bernard de Laccare, which contains Arabic inscriptions: La Illaha Ill Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah (There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his messenger).

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 The Impact of Islamic Art and Aesthetics on Early Western Crafts and Industries, and Sources of Influence


 The preceding outline has avoided troubling itself too much with instances of Islamic medieval influences for the simple reason that it seeks to use such instances in the following to highlight three main points, which are amongst those central to this work:
-The crucial role of Islamic influence in the awakening of the Christian West , here in the field of early crafts and industries courtesy of the Islamic artistic influence.
-The substance of such early crafts and industries, which was Islamic.
-The re-occurrence of the same patterns, routes and means of influence observed already with regard to other changes, thus highlighting, once more, that all changes occurring in medieval Western Christendom , whatever their nature, go back to one and single source: the Islamic.

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