Arabesque (Islamic art)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The arabesque is a form of artistic decoration consisting of "surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils" (John Fleming and Hugh Honour, Dictionary of the Decorative Arts, 1977) or plain lines, often combined with other elements. Within the very wide range of Eurasian decorative art that includes motifs matching this basic definition the term "arabesque" is used consistently as a technical term by art historians to describe only elements of the decoration found in two phases: Islamic art from about the 9th century onwards, and European decorative art from the Renaissance onwards. Arabesques are a fundamental element of Islamic art but they develop what was already a long tradition by the coming of Islam. The past and current usage of the term in respect of European art can only be described as confused and inconsistent. Some Western arabesques derive from Islamic art, but others are closely based on Ancient Roman decorations. In the West they are essentially found in the decorative arts, but because of the generally non-figurative nature of Islamic art arabesque decoration is there often a very prominent element in the most significant works, and plays a large part in the decoration of architecture.

According to Harold Osborne, in France, the "characteristic development of the French arabesque combined bandwork deriving from the moresque with decorative acanthus foliage radiating from C-scrolls connected by short bars". Apparently starting in embroidery, it then appears in garden design before being used in Northern Mannerist painted decorative schemes "with a central medallion combined with acanthus and other forms" by Simon Vouet and then Charles Lebrun who used "scrolls of flat bandwork joined by horizontal bars and contrasting with ancanthus scrolls and palmette." More exuberant arabesque designs by Jean Bérain the Elder are an early "intimation" of the Rococo, which was to take the arabesque into three dimensions in reliefs.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Arabesque (Islamic art)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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