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Unit Five: Courtly Splendor in the Islamic World

Prayer carpet with triple-arch design

Prayer carpet with triple-arch design (detail). About 1575–90. Turkey, probably Istanbul, possibly Egypt, Cairo

In most regions of the Islamic world, the patronage of the ruler and the court was vital to the production of fine works of art and led to important artistic innovations. The sponsorship of artistic activity was viewed as a privilege of kingship. Royal workshops had unparalleled access to funds, fine materials, and the most talented artists. These workshops supported the production of sumptuous luxury objects and fostered collaboration among artists, which resulted in the transmission of motifs and styles from one medium to another. The chapters in this unit highlight the art of two courts in Islamic Spain, the Umayyads (756–1031) and the Nasrids (1232–1492), and the court art of three later Islamic empires—the Mughals of India (1526–1858), the Safavids of Iran (1501–1722), and the Ottomans of Turkey (1299–1923). These chapters examine the role of the royal workshop in the production of art and the creation of distinct dynastic visual languages.

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