Learn/ Educators/ Curriculum Resources/ Art of the Islamic World/ Unit Two: Arabic Script and the Art of Calligraphy/ Arabic Calligraphy as an Art Form

Arabic Calligraphy as an Art Form

Calligraphy, from the Greek words kallos (beauty) and graphos (writing), refers to the harmonious proportion of both letters within a word and words on a page. While some of the best examples of calligraphic writing make this art form appear effortless, each letter and diacritical mark is the result of painstaking measurements and multiple strokes.

Calligraphy appears on both religious and secular objects in virtually every medium—architecture, paper, ceramics, carpets, glass, jewelry, woodcarving, and metalwork. In addition to its decorative qualities, it often provides valuable information about the object it decorates, such as function, maker, patron, and date and place of production.

A number of factors, such as the prospective audience, content of the text, and the shape and function of an object, informs the type of script employed. Graceful and fluid scripts such as nasta'liq are used for poetry (fig. 14), Qur'an manuscripts are written in bold and stately scripts (fig. 13), and royal correspondence utilized complex scripts that are difficult to forge (see image 23). Although there are exceptions, most scripts have several specific functions (figs. 11, 13, 14).

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