Lesson Plans



Faculty Abstracts
(click here for bios)

Lourdes Alvarez | Esin Atil | Kay Broadwater | Charles Butterworth | Brinda Charry | Philip Jacks | Rosamond Mack | Natalia Monteleon | Mary Pixley | Victor Vicente | Mohamed Zakariya

Lourdes Alvarez

Long before Galland published his celebrated Mille et une nuits, a rich repertoire of Arab, Persian, and Indian stories had circulated in medieval Europe. These tales, often presented in frames analogous to that of the 1001 Nights, are included in some of the foundational texts of the rising European vernacular literatures (El Conde Lucanor, TheCanterbury Tales, the Decameron, etc.). We will take a brief look at how these "Oriental" tales made their way into Europe, asking how these tales were transformed upon crossing into new literary and linguistic contexts.

Esin Atil

Ottoman court studios, attached to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, displayed a phenomenal burst of artistic activity in the mid-16th century, more specifically under the patronage of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-66). During his reign the Ottoman Empire acquired its most strategic provinces, controlling western Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe. The sultan subjugated Hungary and besieged Vienna, leading his armies into the heart of Europe; he captured Tabriz and Baghdad, adding Iraq and western Iran to his empire; his navy was able to defeat the combined forces of Europe in the Mediterranean and challenge the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean.

The political might of the empire was matched by its legendary wealth, which found expression in the sponsorship of art and architecture. The imperial societies employed hundreds of men whose backgrounds were as divers as the lands rule by the sultan, their talents ranging from illumination and illustration of manuscripts to weaving of rugs and textiles. Artists from Herat, Tabriz, Damascus, and Cairo worked alongside with those hailing from Circassia, Georgia, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, and even from Austria and Italy, collaborating with local masters. They created new decorative styles and themes that became unique to the Ottoman world and survived for centuries. In addition, they had a strong impact in neighboring cultures and continue to inspire the arts produced in Turkey today.

This illustrated lecture will identify these styles and themes, trace their origin and development, and show how they were re-employed by later European and Turkish artists.

Kay Broadwater

In this two hour hands-on session we will view and explore a variety of artistic patterns that were influenced from Islam into the art of the Renaissance. This presentation will specifically draw attention to how interconnected Arabic and European culture were in the use of repeated pattern and how there is a link between the Golden Age of Arab science and culture and the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. Moreover, this connection is seen in various configurations with mathematics playing a key role in the development of designs. We will carefully look at motifs from Arabia and from Europe and recognize that a 2-D motif can be repeated in only four different ways. We will explore the four symmetry operations of translation, rotation, reflection and glided reflection through the art forms of paper cutting and relief block printing. As we discover the role of pattern in Islam we will see how it is linked to the Renaissance and to our lives today here in the West.  

Charles Butterworth

By the 12th century, Latin translations of works by Arab-Muslim philosophers were circulating throughout Spain, France, England, and Italy. Students at the universities of Oxford, Paris, and Bologna, to name only the most prominent, were quite well-acquainted with the writings of Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, especially the latter. Indeed, Dante's reference to Averroes as "the commentator" in the Divine Comedy resonated with his readers and needed no learned foot-note for further identification. Praised and even honored on the one hand for his numerous commentaries on Aristotle, he was excoriated on the other as the author of the "double-truth theory." Similar controversies swirled around Alfarabi and Avicenna. In sum, normally intelligent people in the world of the Renaissance were quite familiar with Arabic and Islamic culture.

Let us begin by sketching out the brief history of classical Arabic-Islamic culture from about 825-1400 as well as by saying just a little about Islam as a religion and as a world force. Then, looking at Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes to see why they are such famous representatives of this cultural tradition, we will consider what Renaissance thinkers have to say about them and their teaching. What is most striking when one considers what these thinkers stood for and how they were passed on to later generations is what is not said about their teaching, namely, its foundation in the practical or political and ethical teaching of Plato and Aristotle and development of that teaching. Political and ethical reflections give way in Renaissance thinking about Arabic-Islamic culture to metaphysical reflections. How that happens and what it signifies are worth pondering.

Brinda Charry

The session will survey representations of Islam and the Islamic "Orient" in English Renaissance Drama. We will discuss ways to teach Renaissance literature, including Shakespeare, in such a way that England's growing awareness of cultural and racial difference gets foregrounded in the classroom. The focus will be English imaginings of Islam and how they remain a submerged presence even in well-known plays such as Shakespeare's Othello.

Philip Jacks

As early as the twelfth century, Islamic design began to permeate the building arts in Italy through channels of trade. In Venice, with its mercantile contacts to the Ottoman Turks, palace-warehouses, called by the Arabic fondaco, dotted the Grand Canal with their ogive arches of Muslim origin. The Levantine community flourished in this maritime republic with its distinctive dress and customs, particularly through the establishment of the Ghetto Novo and

Novissimo for the Jewish population. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, Venetian artists, notably Gentile Bellini, travelled to the court of Mehmet I to work alongside Islamic scribes and painters; the work they brought back reflected the merging of aesthetic principles between East and West.

Islamic lusterware, imported into Italy beginning in the fourteenth century, came to be known as maiolica from the island of Mallorca, the primary center of Mozarabic production. This technique inspired a large industry around Urbino, Castel Durante and Deruta in the Umbrian region. Painters imitated the patterns of Islamic decoration, while incorporating religious and mythological subjects taken from Italian Renaissance art.

In Spain, Islamic decoration never really died out following the expulsion of the Moors from Granada and Cordoba in 1492. The interfacing of these two visual cultures -- sometimes referred to as mudejar -- flourished during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, as in the expiatory church of San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo, and more notably, under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His imperial residence in Granada rose alongside the great caliphate palace of the Alhambra, parts of which were refurbished by Christian artisans. In Cordoba, Charles V commissioned a Christian basilica embedded within the great Mezquita of the Abbasid caliphate.

Rosamond Mack

Between about 1300 and 1550, manufactured goods imported from various Islamic lands served as models for Italy's decorative arts: silk textiles, ceramics, glass, gold-tooled leather, and inlaid brass. The influential imports reflected changes in the foreign production centers and international trade routes during this period. Changes in the Italian culture and economy determined the timing and pace of development in the individual Italian crafts. The extended period of the Italian developmental process, and its various foreign sources, contributed to diversity in the types of objects produced, and in their decoration.

Mary Pixley

The field of Islamic art before 1600 is a broad one encompassing the artistic production of almost a thousand years of many Islamic cultures that existed over a wide geographical area. In studying the influence of Islamic art on Renaissance Europe, this illustrated lecture will survey a number of the different cultures making up the world of Islam from the origins of Islam until the end of the seventeenth century and the artistic objects associated with them. Through the channels of travel, trade, collecting, diplomatic relations, and war, pieces of Islamic art arrived in Europe, including examples of glassware, pottery, ivory and rock crystal carving, textiles, carpets, bookbindings, and metalwork. The objects were highly valued entering the collections of monarchs and church treasuries. Both the objects themselves and the decorations covering them, including the arabesques, knot patterns, geometric patterns, and calligraphy, influenced western art over a long period of time. The multifaceted and complex nature of the impact of Islamic art and decoration on European artistic production will become apparent as we explore the wide nature of this influence which ebbed and flowed throughout the art of Europe.

Victor Vicente

Music is an ephemeral art and mode of communication; once heard, sounds dissolve into memory. Of all the world's ancient musics however, those of Medieval Europe and the Near East prove to be among the most resilient, for they live on in both written and oral forms. Their survival attests to the centrality of music in the religious, intellectual, and daily lives of Medieval Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The documented musical legacy indicates mutual influence and coexistence between peoples of three related but very different cultures. This presentation will examine this spirit of artistic collaboration through an overview of some of the most important genres of music among the three monotheistic cultures, highlighting points of commonality and difference. The place of music within the other arts, science, religion, and politics will also be discussed, and approaches on incorporating music in a multidisciplinary manner will be provided. The presentation will conclude by addressing the many ways in which these traditions resonate in our world today.

Artistic Faculty

Natalia Monteleon

A brief discussion of the origins and routes of flamenco will touch on the influence of Arabic as well as other cultures on the genre, followed by a brief discussion of basic elements of the dance, singing, and music. We will review basic steps and positions, using upper body, clapping, and arm movements and basic footwork steps, using feet to provide a percussive element to the music. We will then perform, putting all of the elements together into a basic routine. Participants to do not have to perform solo unless they want to. The "routine" will show how the footwork, arm movements, hand clapping all go together, and how the dance coordinates with the music.

Mohamed Zakariya

This slide-lecture will treat the origins and development of Islamic calligraphy in a number of locations. Particular attention will be paid to the later Ottoman period, which is the finest expression of Islamic calligraphy. Calligraphic styles and technique will be presented, and reference will be made to the appearance and adoption of Baroque and Rococo aesthetic elements imported from Europe and adapted for the Ottoman sensibility. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

We welcome your comments and suggestions
The Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
0139 Taliaferro Hall
The University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742

Last updated June 11, 2007