This course consists of a historical exploration of the arts, architecture, and material culture of the Islamic world from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Meant to introduce and overview these rich cultural productions for a broad audience, the course will explain the concepts and terms related to patronage, technologies, use, function, and meaning of the objects and monuments presented in the classes. The material will be discussed in relation to the religion, political history, and philosophy of Islam. Will be examined the many forms, media, styles, and modes of visual expression that contributed to the great diversity of Islamic material culture. The most representative artworks and monuments will be critiqued upon both criteria of their historical significance and artistic achievements.


Dr Valerie Gonzalez

Dr. Valerie Gonzalez

Lecturer: Valerie Gonzalez

Specialism: Islamic art history and aesthetics.;

Valérie Gonzalez, Research Associate, SOAS, University of London.

Gonzalez obtained her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Provence Aix-Marseille, and a Master of Fine Arts, School of Fine Arts, Marseille-Luminy. She was awarded scholarships from Kunsthistorisches Institut-Max-Planck-Institut, Florence, Trinity College, Dublin, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (MIT), the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Books: Aesthetic Hybridity in Mughal Painting, 1526-1658, Ashgate 2015; Insights on Islamic Aesthetics, Visual Culture and History/Shvatanja Islamske Estetike, Visualne Kulture I Historije, 2006; Le piège de Salomon, La pensée de l’art dans le Coran, Albin Michel, 2002, and Beauty and Islam, Aesthetics of Islamic Art and Architecture IBTauris, 2001; Emaux d’al-Andalus et du Maghreb, 1994.


Course objectives

  • Introducing the world of Islam through both its spirituality and visuality
  • Learning about the history and cultural developments of Islam
  • Stimulating appreciation of the Islamic arts and their meaningful beauty Showing the richness of Islamic artistic creation throughout history
  • Giving a sense of the conceptual foundations of Islam as both a faith and a way of life



Upon completion of the programme, you will receive a Certificate of Attendance from the Oxford International Collaboration Centre.



Registration fees

Professionals: £175 – Book Online

Students: £115 – Book Online


Class schedule:

10 session-course (1 hour 30 per session, 2 sessions per week), 


Date and time of first class:

Tuesday and Thursday, 4pm- 5.30pm, from May 4 to June 3.       

Course Outlines:

WEEK 1          

Introducing Islam; the creation of Islamic institutions. Early Islamic art under the patronage of the Umayyads in Great Syria. Art of the latter’s successors in the Umayyad caliphate of al-Andalus (present day Spain).

WEEK 2          

Artistic development in the vast Abbassid Caliphate until the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth-century, and in its Shiite rival, the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt.


Artistic culture in the Islamic East after the Mongol invasion; the Ilkhanids and Timurids in Iran and Central Asia.


Artistic culture in North Africa and Al-Andalus from the 12th-century to the 15th century: the Ayyubids and Mameluks in Egypt; the Hispano-Berber empires in the Maghreb and al-Andalus; and the last Muslim kingdom of the Nasrids in Al-Andalus.


Artistic culture in the three Modern empires of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals.



Museum with No Frontiers (MWNF):

The Virtual Museum of Architecture from Turkey: /

The Samarra Resource page:

The Islamic Painted Page database at:

A short animated video has been produced which gives an introduction to Islamic geometric design:

The University of Edinburgh Library’s image collections are now available online at:

Websites and online resources for Persian Miniature/Shahnameh studies:

The Princeton manuscript of the Shahnama:

Cambridge University digital library, Islamic Collection of manuscript:

Lectures on the Alhambra, Casa Arabe, Spain:

“The Alhambra, History and Heritage”. Mª del Mar Villafranca and Jesús Bermúdez

“Societies and Cultures of al-Andalus”. Mª Jesús Viguera Molins

“Written Culture in the Granada of al-Andalus”. José Miguel Puerta Vílchez

“Collecting the Alhambra”. Mariam Rosser-Owen

The earliest datable Mughal painting:

Register immediately online       

Click ‘HISTORY OF ISLAMIC ART AND MATERIAL CULTURE’ to book your place. You will receive a confirmation email from the admin team.


History of Islamic arts and Material Culture Course