I love studying art and the relationship of how it is used to express or symbolise magical, secret or spiritual meaning. This can also be classified as ‘sacred geometry’ but we can not always be sure of an artist’s intentions when they are applying such shapes and patterns, assuming there is more creative licence at play. As with all art, the perception is with the viewer even when an art commission is very specific!

The ‘fleur-de-lis’ shape is a trio of petals or flames, depending on how you see it, and the shape is not just found on French related artefacts! I have seen it on so many art works now but in the British Museum I noted it on an Iranian tile frieze dated 13th – 14th CE. This could be an interesting example of how craftspeople spread their art  across the trade routes and continents, dispersing notions of new ideas or integrating existing ones.

Stone-paste tile frieze (Arabic in Kufic script). 13th - 14th CE, Kashan, Iran.

Stone-paste tile frieze (Arabic in Kufic script). 13th – 14th CE, Kashan, Iran.

On the dish below, the Arabic inscription is a verse of poetry by the Umayyad poet Muhammad Bashir ibn al-Kharji. It reads, “Do not abandon hope, long though the quest may continue, you will find ease of heart only if you are patient’.

Earthenware glazed dish. 9th CE, Iraq.

Earthenware glazed dish. 9th CE, Iraq.

 

From the same collection at the British Museum, is this a 'fleur de lys'?

From the same collection at the British Museum, is this a ‘fleur de lys’?

 

The hexagram shape has a very intriguing history in art and is definitely worthy of an article on its own. However, in this case it is discussed as part of the British Museum collection along with the ‘fleur-de-lis’, for reasons that will come clear. In the alchemical texts, the hexagram represents two ‘sacred’ equilateral triangles merged to represent the joining of elements of fire (upward triangle, the masculine) and water (downward triangle, the feminine).

 

Earthenware tin-glazed dish, known as 'Fayyumi'. 11th - 12th CE.

Earthenware tin-glazed dish, known as ‘Fayyumi’. 11th – 12th CE.

Magical mirrors were often inscribed to enhance their power. Some examples have the hexagram shapes.

Hexagram example

Hexagram example

Hexagram example

Hexagram example

Hexagram example

Hexagram example

In the case below, note the sides of the brass kettledrum has the ‘fleur de lys’ shapes as well as the hexagram shape on the base.

Mamluk brass war kettledrum inlaid with silver. 14th CE Egypt.

Mamluk brass war kettledrum inlaid with silver. 14th CE Egypt.

Also note in the artefact above that there are also three decorative circles around the ‘fleur de lys’ section, and, three decorative circles around the hexagram shape. This reminds me of the çintamani pattern I’ve seen on many other artefacts (cintamani is the triple dot pattern set in a triangular placement, similar to the three hares pattern – the two links open up very informative PDFs created under the very fascinating Green Man of Cercles project .

 

Mamluk coins (top) and glass stamp (bottom).

Mamluk coins (top) and glass stamp (bottom).

I also saw the cintamani pattern on tiles at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and the British Museum has their own collection too as shown here.

 

Damascus tiles, 16th CE.

Damascus tiles, 16th CE.

Connection or not??!

Originally published: Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 at 06:28 in Celebrating Art, Inspiration

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