Panel from a door or minbar (pulpit) with a repeating vine motif, detail, Iraq, late 8th-first half of
9th cent.; wood, 70 3/4 x 15 1/2 in. See entire door panel here.
Many cultures around the world embellish their architectural surroundings with paintings, carvings, and tilework. Currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a beautiful small show focusing on the ornament of the Near East during the years from 500-1000 A.D., Pattern, Color, Light: Architectural Ornament in the Near East. Many of the patterns are based on plant forms, with leaves entwined with curling stems. They are held within geometric shapes, here elegantly carved squares.....
Doorpost with grapevine emerging from a chalice, Egypt, 6th-7th cent; limestone,
25 9/16 x 5 7/8 x 6 7/8 in.
....and here within the narrow rectangle of a doorpost. The compression of forms within their frame makes the curve of vine more pronounced. The grapevine in this piece is comparatively naturalistic....
Frieze section with bushy plants, Mesopotamia, ca. 6th cent.; stucco, 8 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.
....when seen alongside this frieze, where the plants have been formed into a more abstract pattern.
Panel fragment with meander pattern, Mesopotamia, ca. 6th cent.; stucco, 13 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.
Engaged column part with meander pattern, Egypt, ca. 6th cent.; limestone,
12 3/8 x 8 7/16 x 10 1/4 in.
The two works above combine floral elements with geometry. They got me thinking about the human relationship with nature and with geometry. It seems to me that we have an innate sense of geometry, of right angles, being that most of our architecture is based on rectangles. Even though there are cultures whose houses are round, they are not in the majority. Excavations of ancient sites show rectangular rooms. I do wonder why this is; why is it that people didn't take to the geodesic dome as a dwelling structure? why are we more comfortable in right-angled rooms?
Window with palmettes, Mesopotamia, ca 6th cent.; stucco, 24 1/2 in.
Repeated small circles at the center and outer edge are connected by the spokes of eight leafy shapes.
Panel with beveled carving, Egypt, last quarter of 10th cent.; wood, 18 1/2 x 27 x 3 in.
The depth of this carving emphasizes the luxurious curves of the near-symmetrical patterns.
Cast of ninth century wall panel with beveled vegetal ornament, Iraq, 20th cent.; 42 x 33 in.
Lastly, here a cast made of ornament that was found in place during excavations in Samarra in 1911-13. It has a wonderful combination of geometry enclosing vegetal forms. Triangles, pointing up and down, are resting on rectangles, and all have curving patterns within them. All of these pieces are a reminder that pattern is endlessly variable and very engaging.
Happy Holidays to all my blog friends!