Illustrated Architecture Dictionary ...............Islamic style.............. Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary



1. Intricate overall pattern of geometric forms or stylized plants used in Muhammadan countries.

2. Overall decorative pattern of acanthus scrolls, swags, candelabrum shafts, animal or human forms, on panels or pilasters, in Roman and Renaissance architecture.

3. A species of ornament of infinite variety used for enriching flat surfaces or moldings, either painted, inlaid, or carved in low relief.

- Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, Ed. by Cyril M. Harris. Dover Pub. 1977

Arabesque art consists of a series of repeating geometric forms which are occasionally accompanied by calligraphy.

The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils or plain lines.

Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they in fact symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God (Allah)."
- Wikipedia  (online March 2018)
The Arabesque developed in the Italian cinquecento [15th century Renaissance] work repudiated all the original Arabian elements and devices, and limited itself to the manipulating of the classical elements, of which the most prominent feature is ever the floriated or foliated scroll; and it is in this cinquecento decoration, whether in sculpture or in painting, that Arabesque has been perfected."
- Classic Encyclopedia   (online March 2010)
The Alhambra arabesques combine abstract palm fronds with stylized flowers interlaced with geometric design. Tongues of flame, jasmine blossom and snowflakes form together an infinite melody of divine mathematics...

 - The Alhambra in Focus, translated by Jon Trout. Pub. by EDILUX S.L., 2008, p.90.

In Europe from the Renaissance until the early 19th century, arabesques were used for the decoration of illuminated manuscripts, walls, furniture, metalwork, and pottery. These designs usually were composed of either twining or sinuous scrolls of branches and leaves or ornate lines abstracted from such natural forms. Human figures often were integral to Western arabesque designs.

The earliest Western models inspiring the work of early Renaissance Italian artists were actually ancient Roman stucchi, plaster models found in Roman tombs.  The arabesque of this
period also allowed the inclusion of a broad range of elements — human beings, beasts, birds, fishes, flowers—in imaginative or fantasy scenes, usually with copious interlacings of vines, ribbons, or the like.

With the coming of the Baroque, the use of arabesque decoration fell into disfavour until the middle of the 18th century, when a new series of Roman arabesques was discovered at Herculaneum.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica   (online March 2010)

Renaissance Arabesque Design
Reprinted from A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, by Sir Banister-Fletcher, New York, 1950, pp. 743 and 677.

Used in Neoclassical style.

See also: Fret. .......Strapwork

Sometimes used as a synonym  for  grotesque


Painted, inlaid, or flat carved designs, composed of floral and geometrical scrolls, human or animal and mythological forms, etc. Usually framed within a single shape such as a rectangle.

A Moorish design of scrollwork, leaves, flowers, and interlaced branches. Used on 16th and 17th century Spanish and Portuguese furniture.

A very popular design in oriental rugs consisting of scrolling (or intertwining) vines, flowers, buds or branches. Arabesques can be either floral or geometric in nature.

Arabesques were also applied to the decoration of illuminated manuscripts, walls, furniture, metalwork, pottery, stonework, majolica, and tapestry from the Renaissance to the 19th century.

Examples from Buffalo:
Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
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