Art & Architecture

The Mediation of Ornament

How ornamentation enables a direct and immediate encounter between viewers and art objects


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Oct 17, 2023
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Based on universal motifs, ornamentation occurs in many artistic traditions, though it reaches its most expressive, tangible, and unique form in the art of the Islamic world. The Mediation of Ornament shares a veteran art historian’s love for the sheer sensuality of Islamic ornamentation, but also uses this art to show how ornament serves as a consistent intermediary between viewers and artistic works from all cultures and periods. Oleg Grabar analyzes early and medieval Islamic objects, ranging from frontispieces in Yemen to tilework in the Alhambra, and compares them to Western examples, treating all pieces as testimony of the work, life, thought, and emotion experienced in one society. The Mediation of Ornament is essential reading for admirers of Islamic art and anyone interested in the ways of perceiving and understanding the arts more broadly.