Moorish Art

The Moors ruled over North Africa and portions of Iberia from the 8th century onwards.

In Iberia, Moorish rule continued all the way until the 15th century while in North Africa, it remained after the 15th century as well.

Conquest of Spain by the Moors

The Moorish conquest of Spain and Europe lasted around 700 years

The term “Moorish art” refers to the style of art which thrived in North Africa and Spain during the heyday of Moorish might, between the 8th and 15th centuries.

The moorish rule in Spain itself underwent significant changes over the course of some seven centuries and these changes are reflected in the Moorish art itself.


Moorish Art and Architecture

Who were the Moors

Moorish People

Moorish Art Origins

Moors were Muslims of Berber and Arab descent who first arrived in Iberia in the early 8th century. They were to remain a major power in Iberia until at least the 12th century and a minor power for another two centuries.

The Moors in Spain

The Moors in Spain Moorish Man with pet Tiger

Early Moorish political structure had Omayyad Arabs as the key power-holders and the Moorish art of this period reflects major Arab-Muslim influences.

The Moors defeated the Visigoths when they conquered Iberia in the 8th century and the legacy of the Visigoth art lived on as influences that can be seen in early Moorish art.

Moorish Art

The Moors were skilled artists and produced quality works such as this Mosaic art at Umayyad Mosque

From the 12th century onwards, Moorish Iberia and North Africa came directly under Berber control and the change was reflected in the art created during this period.

The golden period of Moorish art came in the 13th and 14th centuries when Moors produced some of the most glorious art pieces in their last Iberian stronghold, the Emirate of Granada.

The Moors People The Moorish Warrior

Moorish Art Facts

  • Moorish art was recognizable by the use of horseshoe arches and honeycomb vaults in architecture, ceramic and glass mosaics, and the employment of colorful, floral designs.
  • Moorish art originated in North Africa and Spain during the period both were ruled by Moors.
  • Moorish art dates from the 8th century until the 15th century.
  • Moorish art was influenced by the Arab, Muslim, and Berber heritage of the Moors, the Visigoth legacy of Iberia, and occasionally, the Byzantine and Frankish art styles.
  • Moorish art can be seen throughout North African countries, modern-day Spain, and Portugal.

Moorish Art and Architecture

Moorish Art Characteristics

The most notable aspect of Moorish visual arts was the recurring motif of plants and floral patterns which were extensively used in Moorish ivory and wood carvings as well as on architectural carvings.

Pyxis of Al-Mughira Moorish Art

Pyxis of Al-Mughira Moorish Art

In architecture, the Moorish style was characterized by the use of horseshoe arches, large and lavish courtyards, extensive carved decorations known as muqarnas, and the frequent use of glass mosaics on the interior of buildings.


Moorish Art and Architecture

Moorish Art Forms

The chief genre of Moorish art was architecture in which Moors employed wood and stone carvings, calligraphic paintings, and other highly intricate embellishments such as honeycomb vaults.

It is also the genre of which the most numerous examples are extant today in North Africa, Spain, and Portugal.

Moorish Architecture Ceiling in Alhambra Palace

The Moors built some beautiful buildings during the conquests of Spain such as Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain

Other forms of Moorish art include ivory boxes with intricate designs and court scenes. Metalwork was also a major art form in the Moorish society and many boxes made from metal boxes in Moorish Spain are extant today.

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Another popular form of Moorish art was colorful textiles and rugs which were coveted in the Muslim world as well as Europe for their brilliance and quality.


Moorish Art and Architecture

Moorish Art Top 5

  1. The Alhambra Palace complex in modern-day Spain dates back to the 13th century and is a preeminent example of Moorish architecture as well as numerous interior decorative elements.
  2. The Pyxis of Al-Mughira dates back to the 10th century and is one of the finest extant examples of Moorish ivory works.
  3. The Pamplona Casket dates back to the early 11th century and is another example of Moorish ivory work.
  4. The Alhambra vases date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and are a notable example of Moorish pottery.
  5. The Lion Strangler which dates back to the late 11th or early 12th century is an example of Moorish textile.

Moorish Art and Architecture