Islamic Art and Architecture

Developed by Amy Gansell and taught at St. John's University in the Fall of 2014

Course Description

This course explores Islamic art and architecture from around the globe, dating from the era of the seventh-century CE foundation of Islam to the present

Course Requirements: There will be 10 open-note quizzes given at the end of class on 10 different weeks. The quizzes will be on the material covered in class and/or assigned for that day. Unexcused absentees will not be permitted to make up missed quizzes. There will be a Midterm and a Final Exam. The course also requires a written exhibition critique based on a mandatory museum visit.

Grading Policy and Breakdown: Quiz 25%; Midterm 25%; Final 25%; Museum Paper Assignment 15%; Participation 10%. Grade Scale: A 95 – 100; A- 90 – 94.9; B+ 87 – 89.9; B 84 – 86.9; B- 80 – 83.9; C+ 77 – 79.9; C 74 –77.9; C- 70 – 73.9; D 60 – 69.9; F 59.9% and below Late Policy: Late assignments will be penalized at 1/3 a letter grade per day (including weekends). That is, an A becomes an A- becomes a B+, etc.

Course Expectations / Conduct: Behavior: It is expected that all students come prepared to class at all times and consistently behave in a professional manner. Respect and common courtesy towards one another is expected. Surfing the Internet, emailing, watching movies on your computer, and other activities that are unrelated to class will not be tolerated. Cell phone use is not allowed except under emergency circumstances.

Textbook and Learning Materials: Required: D. Fairchild Ruggles, ed. Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. This book is available in the SJU bookstore. Recommended: Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Art and Architecture, Thames and Hudson World of Art, 1999 (reprinted 2010). You can find used copies online for under $15 (try! Supplemental Learning materials (web links, videos, and electronic publications are posted on Bb)


WEEK 1 (Th. 9/4): Introduction to Islamic Religion, Culture, Art, and Architecture

WEEK 2 (Mon. 9/8): Intro continued

     - Oliver Leaman "Eleven Common Mistakes about Islamic Art," in Islamic

    Aesthetics: An Introduction, Indiana, 2004, pp. 4-44. (40pp, skim for


             (Th. 9/11): The Umayyad Dynasty in the Middle East (661-750 CE)

   - Hillenbrand, Ch. 1, “The Umayyads,” pp. 10-37 

   - Al-Ya’qubi: On the Dome of the Rock as Pilgrimage Site, Ruggles, pp. 101-2.

    - Al-Baladhuri: How the Muslim Community Obtained the Site for the Mosque

of Damascus, Ruggles, pp. 102-3.

WEEK 3 (Mon. 9/15): The Umayyad Dynasty in Spain (711-1031 CE)

-Hillenbrand, Ch. 7, “The Muslim West,” pp. 167-175

- Ibn ‘Idhari: On the Mosque of Cordoba, Ruggles, pp. 112-14.

  (Th. 9/18): The Abbasid Dynasty in Iraq (750-1258 CE)

 -Hillenbrand, Ch. 2, “The Abbasids,” pp. 38-60.

 - Kitab al-hadaya wa al-tuhaf: A Reception of Byzantine Ambassadors in

   Baghdad, Ruggles, pp.109-12.

WEEK 4 (Mon. 9/22): The Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt (909-1171 CE)

-Hillenbrad, Ch. 3, “The Fatimids,” pp. 61-85.

- Nasir-I Khusraw: A Description of the Fatimid Palace in Cairo, Ruggles, pp.



            (Th. 9/25): The Nasrid Dynasty in Spain (1230-1492 CE)

  - Hillenbrand, Ch. 7, “The Muslim West,” pp. 188-95.

 - Navagero: On the Alhambra, Ruggles, p. 118.

WEEK 5 (Mon. 9/29): The Mamluks in Egypt (1250-1517 CE); The Ilkhanid and

              Timurid Dynasties in Central Asia (1370-1507 CE)

              -Hillenbrand, Ch. 6, “The Mamluks,” pp. 138-166.

   -Hillenbrand, Ch. 8, “The Ilkhanids and Timurids,” pp. 196-225.

  - Babur: A Description of Samarkand, Ruggles, Ruggles, pp. 152-3.

  - Clavijo: On Timurid Trade with China, Ruggles, Ruggles, p. 24.

  - Abu al-Qasim: On Ceramic Luster and Guilding, Ruggles, pp. 66-67.

            (Th. 10/2): The Safavid Dynasty in Iran (1501-1732 CE); Mini-review

 -Hillenbrand, Ch. 9, “The Safavids,” pp. 226-54.

WEEK 6 (Mon. 10/6): The Mughal Dynasty in India (1526-1858 CE)

   - ‘Inayat Khan: On the Construction of the Taj Mahal, Ruggles, pp. 170-2.

   - Thevenot: A Description of Aurangzeb’s Birthday Celebration, Ruggles, pp.


   - Bernier: On Artisans in Delhi, Ruggles, pp. 30-1.

(Th. 10/9): The Ottoman Dynasty in Turkey (1281-1923 CE); Midterm


                - Hillenbrand, “The Ottomans,” Ch. 10, pp. 255-80

     - Kritovoulos: On the Ottoman Conquest and Reconstruction of Istanbul,

                Ruggles, pp. 137-39.

    - Evilya Celebi: A Description of the Topkapi Palace, Ruggles, p. 141.

    - Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Harem Visits, Ruggles, p. 148.




(Th. 10/16): MIDTERM EXAM

WEEK 8 (Mon. 10/20): Vegetal and Geometric Ornament

              - Duad Sutton, Islamic Design, New York: Walker and Co., 2007, pp. 1-11;

               14-15; 46-49. (activity to be distributed in class)


   (Th. 10/23): Vegetal and Geometric Ornament cont.’d; Calligraphy

     - Oleg Grabar, "Islamic Ornament and Western Abstraction," in Islamic Art

    and Beyond, Vol 3: Constructing the Study of Islamic Art, Hampshire, U.K.:

    Ashgate, 2006, pp. 81-4.

    - Mawlana Sultan-‘Ali: A Treatise on Writing, Ruggles, pp. 40-6.


WEEK 9 (Mon. 10/27): No Class (Museum field trip makes up for this)

   (Th. 10/30): Figural Imagery and Portrait Painting

   - Abu’l-Fazl ‘Allami: On Painting the Human Figure, Ruggles, pp. 53-54.

   - Jahangir: A Portrait Gallery, Ruggles, p. 55.


WEEK 10 (Mon. 11/3): Illuminated Manuscripts – The Qur’an (Muslim holy book)

        - Qur’an, excerpts (to be distributed, read, and discussed in class)

               (Th. 11/6): Illuminated Manuscripts – The Shahnama (Legends of Kings)

      - Shahnama, excerpts (to be distributed, read, and presented in class)

        - Jonathan Bloom, "The Introduction of Paper and the Development of the

        Illustrated Manuscript in Islamic Lands," Muqarnas 17 (2000): 17-23.

      - A Report from a Book Workshop, Ruggles, pp. 27-8.

      - Simi Nishapuri: A Treatise on Papers, Color, and Ink, Ruggles, pp. 38-40.

WEEK 11 (Mon. 11/10): Museum Field Trip and Paper Assignment

                 - Paper Assignment instructions and required readings on Bb

                (Th. 11/13): Paradise, Gardens, and Carpets

                 - The Qur’an: On Paradise, Ruggles, p. 6.

      - Sharaf al-Din ‘Ali Yazdi: A Description of the Dilgusha Garden, Ruggles,

      pp. 155-58.

WEEK 12 (Mon. 11/17): Christian-Islamic Artistic Interactions

                 - Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, "Christian Art in Muslim Contexts,” in

                 The Lion Companion to Christian Art, ed. Michelle Brown, Oxford: Lion

                 Hudson, 2007, pp. 102-4.

     - Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, "From Secular to Sacred: Islamic Art in

     Christian Context," in Secular/Sacred, ed. N. Netzer, Chestnut, Hill, MA:

     Boston College Press, 2006, pp. 115-9.

 (Thurs. 11/20): Field trip: Islamic Cultural Center of NY (ICCNY) Mosque

WEEK 13 (Mon. 11/24): Contemporary Islamic Art and Architecture, Guest


                (Thurs. 11/27): THANKSGIVING BREAK - NO CLASS

WEEK 14 (Mon. 12/1): Film (animated, based on graphic novel): Persepolis, 2007


      (Thurs. 12/4): Film (documentary): Islamic Art, Mirror of the Invisible

      World, 2011        


                (Tues. 12/9): Monday classes meet. Review for Final Exam

                (Thurs. 12/11): FINAL EXAM



Allan, J. and S. R. Canby. Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501-76.

           Geneva: Skira, 2004.

Atil, E. The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: National

           Gallery of Art, 1987.

Blair, S. S. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

Bloom, J. and Sheila S. Blair. Islamic Arts. Phaidon, 1997.

Brend, B. Islamic Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Blair, S. S. and J. Bloom. Islamic Art and Architecture 1250-1800. New Haven: Yale           University Press, 1995.

Broug, E. Islamic Geometric Patterns. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2008.

Caiger-Smith, A. Lustre Pottery: Technique, Tradition and Innovation in Islam

           and the Western World. New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1991.

Canby, S. R., et al. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The

           Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art,


Canby, S. R. Persian Painting. Northampton, MA: Interlink Books, 2004.

Carboni, S. and D. Whitehouse. Glass of the Sultans: Twelve Centuries of

           Masterworks from the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum

           of Art, 2001.

Davidson, C. Legacies for the Future: Contemporary Architecture in Islamic

           Societies. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Dodds, J. D., ed. Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. New York: The Metropolitan           

Museum of Art, 1992.

Eigner, S. and Z. Hadid. Art of the Middle East: Modern and Contemporary Art of the

           Arab World and Iran. London: Merrell Publishers, 2010.

Ettinghausen, R., et al. Islamic Art and Architecture 650-1250. New Haven: Yale

           University Press, 2001.

Evans, H. C. and B. Ratliff. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century.

           New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

Fleet, K., et al. Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition (EI3). Boston: Brill, 2007-.

Flood, F. B. The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies in the Makings of an Umayyad

           Visual Culture. Boston: Brill, 2001.

Frishman, M. and H. Uddin-Khan, eds. The Mosque: History, Architectural

           Development and Regional Diversity. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Gillow, J. Textiles of the Islamic World. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Grabar, O. The Dome of the Rock. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard

           University Press, 2006.

Grabar, O. The Great Mosque of Isfahan. New York: New York University Press,


Grabar, O. Islamic Art and Beyond. Burlington, VT: Ashgate: 2006.

Grabar, O. The Mediation of Ornament. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Haleem, M A. S. A. The Qur’an, a new translation. Oxford World’s Classics. New York:

           Oxford University Press, 2010.

Hattstein, M. and P. Delius. Islam: Art and Architecture. Cologne : Könemann, 2000.

Hillenbrand, R. Islamic Architecture. New York: Columbia University Press,


Hillenbrand, R. Islamic Art and Architecture. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2010.

Hillenbrand, R, ed. Shahnama: The Visual Language of the Persian Book of Kings.

Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

Insoll, T. The Archaeology of Islam. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1999.

Knobloch, E. Monuments of Central Asia: A Guide to the Archaeology. New York: I. B.

           Tauris, 2001.

Koch, E. The Complete Taj Mahal. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001.

Komaroff, L. Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts. Los Angeles:

           Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011.

Lindsay, J. E. Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World. Indianapolis: Hackett

           Publishing, 2008.

Marks, L. U. Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art.

           Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.

Mattson, I. The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life. Malden, MA:

           Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Meller, S. Silk and Cotton: Textiles from the Central Asia that Was. New York:

           Abrams, 2013.

Mitchell, G. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning. New

           York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Porter, V., ed. Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. London: The Trustees of the British

           Museum, 2012.

Porter, V. Islamic Tiles. London: The British Museum Press, 1999.

Ruggles, D. F.. Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources. Malden, MA:

           Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Ruggles, D. F. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. Philadelphia: University of

           Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Rustomji, N. The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. New York:

           Columbia University Press, 2008.

Sardar, Z. Reading the Qur’an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Shabout, N. M. Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics. Gainesville:

           University Press of Florida, 2007.

Stierlin, H. Islamic Art and Architecture from Isfahan to the Taj Mahal. New York:

Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Stierlin, H. Islam I: Early Architecture from Baghdad to Cordoba. Cologne: Taschen,


Sutton, D. Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry. New York: Walker and Co., 2007.

Unity Productions Foundation. Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World. DVD (90

           minutes), 2011.

Watson, O. Ceramics from Islamic Lands. New edition. New York: Thames and

           Hudson, 2006.

Recommended On-line Resources:

ARCHNET (Register for a free account)

David Collection

Discover Islamic Art (Museum with No Frontiers)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Islamic Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Thematic Essays  


Ruggles, D. F., National Endowment for the Humanities, American Library Association, and Twin Cities Public Television. Islamic Art Spots. Washington, DC: American Library Association, 2013. (7 short films, ~10 min. each)


Gansell, Amy Rebecca. "Islamic Art and Architecture." Syllabus, St. John's University, New York, NY, 2014.


Amy Gansell