Sandra Gianfreda


Re-Orientations: Europe and Islamic Art from 1851 to Today

Ed. by Sandra Gianfreda

Munich, Hirmer, 2023

Texts by Alix Agret, Wilko Beckmann, Emily Christensen, Nadine Engel, Gwenaëlle Fellinger, Karl Gerstner, Sandra Gianfreda, Elvira González Asenjo, Negar Habibi, Jessica Hallet, Lucina Llorente, Sarah McGavran, Nadia Radwan, Mary Roberts, Katherine Rochester, Alban von Stockhausen, Ariane Varela Braga.

German edition: Inspiration Islam – europäische Künstler*innen im Dialog mit islamischer Kunst und Kultur​​​​​​​, Munich, Hirmer, 2023.

The art and architecture of the Islamic world strongly influenced the development of Western modernism. Some 200 works from the mid-19th century to the present day illustrate this fascinating cultural exchange. Beguiling examples of fine and decorative art reflect the diversity of this lively transfer.

During the 19th century, Europe became caught up not only in Orientalism, but also in a real “Islamophilia”. Important collections of Islamic art were established. With the approach of modernism the view of these “foreign” influences changed. Artists of the avant-garde and masters of applied art sought inspiration for their own new style in the wealth of formal language and colourfulness characterized by Islamic art. Positions of contemporary art to current Islamic discourse round out this multi-faceted publication.


Manazir Journal #3 (2021): "Geometry and Color. Decoding the Arts of Islam in the West from the Mid-19th to the Early 20th Century"

Ed. by Sandra Gianfreda, Francine Giese, Axel Langer and Ariane Varela Braga


The art and architecture of the Islamic world had a decisive impact on the development of decorative and fine arts from 1880 to 1945. Many leading artists and architects took inspiration from the rich Islamic language of forms and ornamentation. They were fascinated by the mathematical principles and unusual harmonies of colors in Persian miniatures and rugs, stained glass windows or Iznik tiles, and punched metal works and ceramics from the Near East, North Africa and Moorish Spain. While only some of them actually visited the Islamic world and studied its art and architecture in situ, many discovered it through exhibitions and publications. Following on from Paris (1893/1903), Stockholm (1897) and Algiers (1905), Munich set new standards in 1910 with the exhibition “Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst” (“Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art”). Museums, art dealers and private collectors from a number of countries contributed some 3,600 works, including valuable carpets, ceramics, metalwork pieces and Persian miniatures. The exhibition marked a turning point not only for the academic studies of the time, but also in terms of the reception of Islamic arts. In the Western fine and decorative arts of the 19th century, the “Orient” conjured up motivic imagery heavily influenced by the colonialist perspective, whereas the artists of early Modernism investigated Islam’s stylistic devices in depth, transposing them to their own environment through a process of artistic internalization. In combination with their own traditions and their respective times, it was this very internalisation that instilled motivating creative processes, out of which artists developed countless new forms of expression.