Calligeofiguresques: An introduction to Islamic Art and Design


by James Allan

November 23rd

Calligeofiguresques: An introduction to Islamic Art and Design

In Europe, in both a religious and secular context, we are used to art which is representational, and it is commonly held that Islamic art is non-representational. This lecture introduces Islamic art through its three most widely appreciated non-representational strands, Arabic calligraphy (the Islamic art form par excellence), geometry, and the arabesque. However, it also explores the figural side of Islamic art, and shows how widespread figural art really is - even, most surprisingly, in some religious settings. The lecture concludes by highlighting the way art reflects the deep theological divide between Sunni (orthodox) Islam and Shi'ism.

James Allan


James Allan was curator of the Islamic collection and Keeper of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University, where he also set up an inter-faith exhibition service and taught Islamic art and architecture. James has published numerous articles and books on Islamic art, the most recent being “The art and architecture of Twelver Shi'ism: Iraq, Iran and the Indian Subcontinent”.