Casket with courtly scenes, Spain, (Umayyad)
c. 1000, carved ivory with later silver mounts, 26.8 x 26.2 x 16.2 cm (10 9/16 x 10 5/16 x 6 3/8)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

~The Human Figure

One popular assumption is that Islamic culture does not tolerate figural imagery. This ban can certainly be seen at work in religious contexts. No human or animal figures appear in mosque decoration, and there are no illustrated Qur'ans. On the other hand, figural images were common in secular contexts, especially in works of art made for the courts of Islamic rulers. Ivory caskets from the courts of Muslim Spain, for example, are sometimes carved with images of courtiers and musicians surrounded by birds and animals in a garden setting, and many literary manuscripts contain figural illustrations.

Copyright © National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.