King's Academy Summer Institute


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Art History: Islamic Art and the Image

Islamic Art and the Image

Islamic art is known for its abstract forms, geometric patterns, and Arabic calligraphy and is often thought to be entirely devoid of figuration. This course takes as its starting point the widely held belief that Islam discourages, and even prohibits, the production and use of figural imagery. While the Quran is silent on the issue, a handful of Hadith, traditions and sayings ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, indeed dissuade the making of images. The art and architecture across the Jordanian landscape, though, tells quite a different story.

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In the eastern desert, an Umayyad bathhouse contains floor to ceiling wall paintings replete with human figures, animal and vegetal forms, and astrological images. Likewise, just north of Queen Alia International Airport, the extant facade of an Umayyad royal retreat reveals carved animal and floriate images. In the south, archaeological finds from an early Abbasid residence include carved ivory human figures and botanical infused fresco paintings. In this course, we’ll explore the question of art and image-making in Islamic traditions through these rich Jordanian cultural heritage sites and highlight the ways that figural imagery has played a vibrant role in shaping the region’s visual culture. 


This course will explore various early Islamic sites in Jordan through on-site videos, images, and reading materials to gain a better understanding of the production and use of figural images in the first centuries of Islam. Asynchronous assignments will likely include weekly reflections and discussion posts. 

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Who Should Attend?

Secondary school teachers of world history, Middle Eastern history and AP art history. No prior knowledge is necessary.


Completing the course will provide teachers with an expanded understanding of Islamic visual culture that can be incorporated in their own courses on Middle Eastern art, history, and culture and global history and art history more broadly.

  • US $750/530 JD
  • Early bird discount: Get 25% off when you register before July 19

  • Group discount: Get 30% off when two or more register from the same institution
Course Instructor: Holley Ledbetter

Holley Ledbetter has a Bachelor’s degree in classical languages and medieval and renaissance studies from Sweet Briar College, a Master’s degree in art history from the University of Texas at Austin and another Master’s degree in English literature from Western Michigan University.

She is currently completing a doctorate in art history at the University of Michigan, specializing in early Islamic art and architecture.

Ms. Ledbetter is a faculty member in the Department of Communication, Rhetoric and the Literary Arts (CRLA) at King's Academy.