1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Fine Arts in Arabia

(Part 57)


(57) Fine Arts in Arabia

Debarred by religious scruples from the representation of animated forms in sculpture or painting, Arab decorators (for they are no more) found themselves restricted to vegetable or fantastic patterns and colour combinations, and in these, the Spanish Alhambra and other buildings can testify , showed themselves no mean proficients. They made great use of glazed tiles and stucco, and possessed the art -- one that they have lost long ago -- of staining glass. Lastly, music, as the handmaid and enhancer of poetry, was a favourite and honoured pursuit among the Arabs, who, with comparatively rough instruments, -- the rudiments of the flute, harp, tabor, and guitar, rather than the instruments themselves, -- and with a scale, carefully and scientifically elaborated, but essentially differing from our own, produced results that real excellence alone could have merited or obtained. The voluminous "Book of Songs" already alluded to contained the history and points out the distinctive characteristics of a hundred airs, each esteemed a masterpiece by competent judges. For one alone its composer received from the Caliph Al-Bathik Billah (842 A.D.) a sum equivalent to nearly £2300 sterling. It is noticeable that though the best voices were furnished by the Hejaz, the instrumental and scientific part was perfected by Persian instruction under the Abbaside caliphs of Baghdad.

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