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7.3.2 Pair of Doors Carved in the 'Beveled Style'

These teak wood doors are said to have been found at Takrit, but were probably originally made in Samarra, the palace city of the Abbasid caliphs for a brief time in the mid‑ninth century. They epitomize the Beveled style—a symmetrical, abstract, vegetal form—and were probably originally painted and highlighted with gilding.

9th century

Pair of Doors Carved in the 'Beveled Style', Iraq, 9th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art # 31.119.1,,.2/.

These doors are made of teak, wood from a tree that only grows in the tropics. In the 800s a merchant imported this wood from somewhere in Southeast Asia into the Abbasid Caliphate, near Baghdad. Archaeologists do not know exactly where these doors were made or where they hung, but the location was probably Samarra, a city with Abbasid palaces. They know it could not have been Baghdad, because the city of Baghdad has been completely destroyed and burned to the ground three times since the tenth century. No buildings or objects that were in early Baghdad have survived. A carpenter carved these doors in a special Abbasid style — the bevel style — which became popular throughout the Muslim world. The designs are symmetrical, meaning that they are the same on each side, and abstract, meaning that they don’t represent a known object. The shapes look like plants. There are two kinds of interaction that this source represents. What are they?
The two types of interaction are trade (the teak from Southeast Asia) and spread of a popular art style (the bevel style) from the capital region (the center) throughout the Muslim world. Abbasid artistic styles were widely admired and copied then and now in the Muslim world. The use of abstract, plant-like forms and symmetry are common in Islamic building decoration. The destruction of Baghdad was so complete that there are little or no archaeological remains from the earlier city. Since Samarra was briefly an Abbasid capital city but was not destroyed with the same thoroughness, archaeologists often use it as a suggestion of what Baghdad might have contained, even though Samarra was much smaller and less important.