ar•a•besque, ar-a-besk´, noun
The arabesque motif features intricate tooling, flowing lines and elaborate, multi-hued inlays and onlays. Derived from the work of Hellenistic craftsmen working in Asia Minor, the arabesque originally included birds in a highly naturalistic setting. As adapted by Muslim artisans about 1000 AD, it became highly formalized; for religious reasons, no birds, beasts or human figures were included. The arabesque became an essential part of the decorative tradition of Islamic cultures.
In Europe, from the Renaissance until the early 19th century, arabesques were used for the decoration of illuminated manuscripts, walls, furniture, metal-work and pottery. These designs were usually composed of either twining or sinuous scrolls of branches and leaves or ornate lines abstracted from such natural forms. Human figures were integral to Western arabesque designs.
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