The wooden antiques


The making of wooden artifacts was one of the most prominent arts in the history of Islamic arts, as it recorded for us the stages of development of Islamic art in general.

The beginning of the art of wooden artifacts

After it was largely available in Byzantine and Persian art in the Umayyad era, it began in the Abbasid era, especially since the establishment of the city of Samarra in the third century AH, which become a distinct Islamic character, very similar to the style of personal decoration that was known in the history of arts as the Arabesque, in reference to the Arabs.

This style consists of floral decorations engraved in geometric shapes, and it is now known as experimental art, as for the wooden artifacts made in Egypt during the Fatimid era, the precision in engraving gradually increased until it reached it in the fifth century AH, human and animal drawings began to appear in the decorations, along with arabesque decorations.

Other methods of wood decoration also appeared, such as inlay Using ivory, mother-of-pearl, and ebony, as appeared in the Mamluk era, the manufacture of nets from conical wood, which is known as Mashrabiya (tall building covered with wooden balconies that allowed women to see without being seen). 

In its early days, Islamic wood decorations were influenced by the local traditions in each region, and then gradually began to acquire the region’s own character within the framework of the general Islamic character.

In the Umayyad and Abbasid eras

Examples of woodcarving decorations that date back to the Umayyad and Abbasid eras are few, they are distinguished in the Umayyad era by the use of grape leaves and pine cobs, The Abbasid era is distinguished by its distance from transmitting nature literally, and Muslims in this era invented a method of carving in wood in an oblique or beveled manner.

In Egypt

As for Egypt, it has an ancient history of wood carving, some pieces dating back to the eighth and ninth centuries AD were found, and the basis of the decorations are rosettes with a single center, winged shapes, leaflets with three lobes, and some drawings of birds and animals between the leaves.

During the reign of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, the founder of the Tulunid state, new methods of carving in wood appeared, gradually mixing with local methods, decorations were engraved using the circular bevel method, and the pieces to be decorated were often divided into areas of geometric shapes, including rhombuses, rectangles, and others, sometimes we see birds engraved in the same method.

The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

We see in the Museum of Islamic art an excellent collection of wooden panels from the Fatimid era, with engraved decorations representing scenes of hunting, dancing, singing, musicians, camels, birds and animals within areas separated by interwoven decorations on a floor of branches of leaves and flowers, carved deeper than the human figures, and the division seen in these panels and the degrees of the contrast protrusion. and the resulting distribution of shadows give this work a unique plastic character.

In the Museum of Islamic art in Cairo, there are three portable wooden niches created by the mihrab (tomb's scenery) by Sayyida (mistress)  Nafisa.

Its sides are decorated with floral elements and geometric bands that form polygonal shapes, it has a frame decorated with ornate Kufic calligraphy, and the back of the mihrab is divided into rectangular fillings of different proportions.

It has a frame decorated with ornate Kufic calligraphy and the back of the mihrab is divided into rectangular fillings with different floral and geometric proportions that remind us of the extraordinary ability to combine two decorative styles in one unit, namely the geometric style and the arabesque style.

In the Mamluk era

In the Mamluk era, carpenters were able to create miraculous ingenuity in filling decorations, and the most important aspect of these decorations became their assembly in the form of star plates, bone and tooth, and wood with different natural colors was used.

The manufacture of lathe wood is an ancient industry that was made to have its aesthetic effect and began to be abundant in some pieces of furniture in Egypt in the Islamic era, this industry has developed and reached its most beautiful examples in the images of mashrabiyas  and wooden partitions for compartments in mosques.

The Arabs were introducing the industry of ivory carving with excellent and rare mastery, as evidenced by the many precious pieces, such as the small ivory box that was made for one of the kings of Seville in the eleventh century AD, known as the San Isidore Leonean Box. 

The Bayeux Cathedral ivory box, which was made in the twelfth century AD and was brought from Egypt in the days the Crusades, as we assume, appears to be decorated with silver.















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