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The Art and Architecture of Umavids

Mohammad and his ancestors ignored any unnecessary decoration, and did not use their political and religious power to build massive castles and lavish temples.

But soon after monarchy transferred to Umavids in 41/I661, they started building temples which from a ceremonial aspect, was even more luxurious than infidel's temples or churches. They had to work hard to make their temples as luxurious and radiant as Byzantium governments. So during the Umavids' monarchy many construction activities started. It is clear that in the construction these buildings, the decorating rules from ancient ages, which had adapted from eastern forms and shapes were used as much as possible.

Most likely in the construction of mosques in this period, they not only used what they had locally available, but also brought utensils from future places, especially Byzantine columns and capitals.

 In Umavids art, the most essential part of ornament is done by using stone. As it is seen in the next eras in the Cordoba (Qurtubah) sites.

We can study the stonework s at the beginning of Islam, by analyzing the remains of the ornaments belonging to the castles, mosques and houses, which have been constructed during the Umavids monarchy; these historical and architectural elements, such as columns and alters, show highly skilled stoneworks and plaster works from the first Islamic period.

Sassanids and Greek style in cutting wood continued till the beginning of the Islamic era, and gradually new techniques and procedures were added to it. Therefore, vast alternations were made in the application of botanic forms. A palm tree which ends in two branches applied on a pine cone and spherical shape, surrounded by Sassanid's palm feathered leaves, is an example of these reformations.

Sassanid's method of decorating is noticeable in metalworks belonging to the beginning of Islamic period, 30 particularly silver plates which are mistakenly attributed to Sassanid period. Few silver plates with hunting scenes and human Figures in Sassanid's method belong to the first period of Islam. On some of these plates, the name of the owner has been carved in Pahlavi, making it easy to designate the age of the plate.

One of the characteristics of the silver plates, which were made right after the Sassanid period, is their heavy and formal decoration with the minimum elevation. The silver plates had images of animals and birds and were one of the most important groups of Islamic metalwork after Sassanid era. Like most of the silver plates from this period, engraving, and carving are used more than embossing. These plates have characteristic elements that were all established in the new Islamic era.

Although the style of picturing the animal's shape, muscles, face and mane were all carefully drawn and decorated with plants and circular leaves and heart shape palm leaves that fill the gaps between the drawings, have Samanids characteristic, but they are totally done in the Islamic style.

Bronzeworking at the beginning of the Islamic period, included vessels such as trays, ewers, and mugs for drinking water all having an animal or bird design, moreover, they were all made from bronze; a simple or more delicate shape with embossed decorations or enamel, all done mainly the Samanids' style. Few of these vessels have a round, spherical body with a tall cylindrical neck, which ends to a bird shape tube at the end.

The arrival of the Middle East by the Arabs started a new era in ceramic production. At the beginning, Iraqi, Egyptian and Persian pottery makers were imitating their local styles, but gradually invented a new way in which they covered ceramics with different shapes and colors. This style is now known as one of the great influential styles in Islamic pottery. one of the biggest groups of Islamic pottery consist of those in which the pot is first decorated by cutted or carved shapes and then covered by a clear lead glaze. Decorating pottery with carved or cutted ornaments is one of the easiest ways and has been used in many eras and by many nations. This style is known as Qabry and the oldest plate made in this method, belongs to the Umavids.

Refrence(s):

- Shayestehfar. Mahnaz. (2007). an Introduction to Persian Islamic Art. Iran. Institute of Islamic Art Studies. P. 21

 

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