Title page for ETD etd-01192016-151705

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Schepp, Leslie Anne
URN etd-01192016-151705
Title The Physical and the Divine: Images of Inebriation in Medieval Islamic Art of the Umayyads From the 7th to the 11th Century
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Art
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mamoli, Myrsini Committee Chair
Fitzpatrick Sifford, Elena Committee Member
Spieth, Darius Committee Member
West, Lisa Committee Member
  • Paradise
  • Wine
  • Drinking
  • Medieval Islamic Art
  • Umayyad
Date of Defense 2015-12-09
Availability unrestricted
The holy text of Islam, the Qur’an, frequently refers to wine both praising and condemning the substance. Within the confines of earth, wine is prohibited because of its intoxicating nature. Believers who imbibe wine reaching an inebriated state separate themselves from God by failing to heed his law. However, for those believers righteous enough to enter the ideal, pastoral, paradisiacal afterlife, wine is not only permitted, but a great reward from Allah. In Paradise, the righteous will lounge on soft, supple couches, and will be served copious amounts of wine from goblets of silver and glass by beautiful, immortal youths.

This description of Paradise provides an image of pleasures not typically afforded to believers of a religion that developed in an arid desert region. Both the religious and the secular realms of early Islamic art thus explore the act of wine drinking and the pleasures of Paradise. Religious Islamic art conveys the notion of Paradise as a means to attract converts to Islam who otherwise live in less than pleasurable conditions. Following an aniconic style, Islam’s religious art illustrates the verses of the Qur’an, providing a visual image to believers of the fertile garden, promised by God awaiting them in the afterlife.

The secular realm of Islamic art also employs iconography referring to paradise, but does so by adopting and adapting themes of banqueting and luxury developed in early civilizations of the Near East by the ruling and elite classes as a means to demonstrate power and privilege. Through an analysis and comparison of pre-Islamic art of the Near East, as well as both the religious and secular realms of early Islamic art, this thesis explores the ways The Umayyad Caliphate employed an ancient iconography in order to secure the caliph’s reign as successor to the previous empires of the Near East.

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