The Cultural Influences on the Motifs and Symbols of Spanish Ceramics

By Kimberly Habegger.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

While Western art has valued self-expression, innovation, the portrayal of humanity and the achievement of realistic effects up until the late nineteenth century, Islamic art has been characterized by tradition, conventionalism, stylization, repetition, balance and symmetry. As Stanley Abercrombie observes: the design characteristic of Islamic art does not record nature or human achievement; it instead suggests spirituality in its miraculously intricate organization (188). The divine is addressed directly and symbolically: frequent epigraphic ornamentation praises Allah and motifs such as the seven concentric circles reference the seven heavens. The reflective contemplation of the interrelationships and repetitions of the artistic elements facilitate the act of thought, meditation or prayer, thus bringing the viewer in closer contact with the divine.
In medieval Spain, the prolonged contact between Islamic and Christian cultures that begins in the mid-eighth century is evident in the artistic forms of expression of the convivencia or coexistence. With the advent of the thirteenth century, as significant areas of the Iberian Peninsula are no longer dominated by Islamic rule, the incorporation of Christian symbols and motifs, an increased emphasis on representation of humans and the new repertoire of the Renaissance are incorporated with the Islamic artistic tradition. As the imagery becomes less Islamic it grows increasingly distanced from reflecting a spiritual ideal to instead reflecting aspects of late-medieval Spanish society. This imagery reflects its multicultural environment and is found on the many products of the period particularly those produced by the mudéjar (Muslims living under Christian rule who kept their religion and customs) artisans schooled in the traditional Islamic arts who eventually produce under Christian rule for Christian consumers.

Keywords: Spain, Ceramics, Medieval

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.291-298. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 758.629KB).

Dr. Kimberly Habegger

Associate Professor, Department of Modern & Classical Languages, Regis University, Denver, Colorado, USA

I have my formal education in Spanish Literature (Ph.D.) and an Associate’s degree in Interior Design. In my research of the last 13 years I have attempted to merge these two fields investigating the traditional arts of the US Southwest, exploring the theme of architecure in literature and studying the folk art and culture of Latin America and Spain.

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