I picture a dancer in arabesque, poised gracefully on the tip of one toe, her other leg straight behind her at 90 degrees, one hand back and one artistically stretched forward — the embodiment of grace in classic ballet.
The name arabesque applied to the flowing ornament of Moorish invention is exactly suited to express those graceful lines which are their counterpart in the art of dancing. [“A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing,” 1922]
Look a little deeper into the arabesque, and you find a rich history, and the story of biomorphic art. Here, the arabesque refers to flowing, spiral patterns that represent the underlying order and unity of nature. Interwoven lines form They are a fundamental element of Islamic art, and have subsequently been found in European, and then Western design.
Photo by RD Shaw, from islamic-arts.org
The intricate patterns of the islamic arabesque symbolize the infinite, the nature of creation, conveying spirituality without iconography. The photo above was taken in the Alhambra, a palace and fortress in Southern Spain.
Design Art, Arabesque en Grisaille, Antique Watercolor, 19th Century
The art of the arabesque moved on to Europe, and from Renaissance until the early 19th century, it was used to decorate illuminated manuscripts, walls, furniture, metalwork and pottery. As the design was westernized, human figures were sometimes introduced into the design.
Mahmood Kaiss, The Dome, 2017
featured at The Museum for Islamic Art: Contemporary Arabesque exhibition Jan – Apr 2018
If you are around Winter Park, Florida this summer, you can stop in at the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. They are hosting an Arabesque Exhibit, interpreting Islamic art through the eyes of contemporary artists.