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Esra Akin-Kivanc
University of South Florida (Tampa, FL 33620-9951)
Geometry of Islamic Calligraphy: History, Sources, and Meaning

Research leading to two articles on the geometrical foundations of pre-modern Islamic calligraphy.

In the pre-modern Islamic world, calligraphy was commonly considered to be the most revered branch of art. Despite the art form’s centuries-old history, distinctive idiom, and its popularity from China to Spain, there exists no scholarship that explores the structural principles of Islamic calligraphic compositions. I am requesting a grant to continue research on two articles that I am preparing on a corpus of hitherto unstudied inscriptions designed according to the principles of symmetry identified in geometry, specifically, friezes and medallions. My initial analyses of these textual compositions led me to believe that pre-modern calligraphers were knowledgeable of, and incorporated into their art, contemporary discourses and practices in mathematics. This significant finding, in turn, points to an intersection between art and science, a nuanced understanding of which is essential for a study of the history and meaning of Islamic ornament and its reiterations in non-Islamic art. [Edited by staff]

Project fields:
Cultural History; History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts; Interdisciplinary Studies, Other

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2019 – 7/31/2019