Abbasid Art

Abbasid Art
Abbasid Art

As it happens with the artistic forms of the Romanesque or Gothic era, in Islamic art one can also appreciate an evolution throughout its production although it may not be so easy to perceive the changes that are taking place in each of the artistic fields; In this article we will focus on one of the most fruitful periods of this artistic trend, Abbasid art.


It is essential to know the history of the Muslim people in order to understand the social and cultural changes that occurred at this time. The Abbasid Caliphate, also known as the Abbasid or Baghdad Caliphate, is the family of Sunni caliphs that replaced the Umayyads and held power between 750 and 1258. Although they initially settled in Fufa, in 762 the caliphate changed its capital to Baghdad. When we talk about the artistic production of this time, the dates are different since in the middle of the 11th century, the influences of the Seljuk Turks in the artistic environment are already beginning to become noticeable.

As a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the Koran on Islamic art, it does not matter at any time the representation of figures is strictly prohibited, hence, architecture is the most developed artistic field of this art. In the urban field, we must highlight how the Abbasid caliphate promoted the growth of two cities to where it transferred the main points of power: Samarra andBaghdad. The city of Baghdad must be the most interesting of the two because it was the political center of the time, however its remains still appear buried today since they underlie the current city. The remains of Samarra tell us about a circular city whose ruins have been studied by archaeologists such as Ernst Herzfeld or Alastair Northedge. Inside, the city housed at least two great mosques (one of them known as the Great Mosque of Samarra and the other the Abu Dulaf Mosque) of which only a few ruins remain but which present an interesting structure in its minaret, configuring this with a helical shape.

Regarding the decoration of the buildings, the geometric shapes made with stucco stand out,in this sense, art historians have cataloged three different styles of stucco, all of them very important to time to influence other minor arts.

It is precisely in the field of minor arts where we can find some of the most outstanding contributions of the time, for example in ceramics the Abbasids left us a new earthenware technique, understood not as our traditional pottery but as a clay covered by a vitreous layer that gives it greater shine. Another of the techniques that appeared at this time is the metallic shine according to which a metallic object effect can be achieved by adding metal ions to the ceramic paste; this technique became very popular and we can find it in the minaret of the mosque ofKairouan.

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