“Umayyad art is a combination of decorative styles of motifs drawn from different artistic traditions”
Umayyad art was heavily influenced by other cultures and artist styles because of the rapid expansion of Islam and the tendency to appropriate other cultures artist styles. These two factors and the fact that Islam allows other groups like Christianity and Judaism to practice in peace heavily influenced Umayyad art. The curators of the exhibit were able to clearly show the influence of other cultures without overwhelming the viewer.
Even in everyday life the combination of multiple cultures was evident, when a universal coinage was introduced to replace the Byzantine coins that were used earlier often multiple languages were used on a single coin. The transition from one coinage to another also is an indication of growing power and influence of Islam.
One of the main reasons decorative art was created was for religious purposes, for example in the floor mosaic in the Church of the Virgin Mary stylistically the motifs surrounding the inscription such as the vegetal motifs and framing are common in islamic artwork. The writing in the center is also written in Greek, that demonstrates the combination of diverse cultures and beliefs in one piece of art. This mosaic and other forms of Christian art also show the shift from depicting human and animal forms to more multiple representational images as a form of respect for Islamic traditions.
Another example of the combination of multiple artistic traditions in Umayyad art would be the Dome of the Rock. The mosque architecture style is based off of Byzantine buildings but the decorative elements inside are primarily vegetal themed with some Quran inscriptions. It is important to note that the mosque itself is a highly important building for Islamic followers since it is based off of the House of the Prophet. If Islamic followers were willing to incorporate other cultures art into one of their most holy buildings it demonstrates the flexibility of Umayyad art. The combination of styles at the Dome of the Rock is just one of many examples of Umayyad art appropriation of other culture’s architecture.
In some other decorative arts like wall mosaics and floor panels show the influence of Roman myth. One example of the influence of other cultures stories is the floor panel with the painting of Gaea surrounded by a vine frame. Gaea was the mother goddess in Roman myth. Even the technique used to create the floor painting demonstrates the adaptation of other artistic techniques by early Umayyad artists. The most interesting aspect of this piece of art is that fact that multiple human figures are depicted realistically.