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The Cover
February 3, 2010

Star Shaped Islamic Tiles With Cross Shaped Infill

JAMA. 2010;303(5):395. doi:10.1001/jama.303.5.jcs90036

Three consistent elements in Islamic decorative art are calligraphy, geometric shapes, and flowing, interlacing linear motifs known as arabesques. Often these three elements are combined in a single decorative work, such as Star Shaped Islamic Tiles With Cross Shaped Infill (cover). Each of the 15 tiles in this set is bordered with quotations from the Qur’an in Arabic calligraphy. Although the tiles were made in Persia, Arabic script was typically used for quotations from the Qur’an, because Arabic was the language of the prophet Muhammad. This set of tiles incorporates two geometric shapes, and each tile has a unique decoration. Repetition, variation, and symmetry are characteristic of Islamic design throughout the Middle East, northern Asia, the Far East, and southern and eastern Europe, although the details of Islamic ornamentation may vary from one region to another. For example, Arabian designers avoided the use of living forms, so their designs are typically abstract, whereas in Persian ornament, the curlicues, chains, and graceful curves of Arabian decoration are combined with natural forms such as flowers, leaves, and fruit. As seen in each of the tiles on the cover, the decorative motifs of Islamic art, whether designs of simple curves or representations of nature, typically branch from a common stem.

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