Zellige ( _ar. الزليج) (also Zellidj, Zillij, Zellij) is terra cotta tilework covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster. [L'Opinion (May 6 1992)] It is one of the main characteristics of Moroccan architecture though it's also used in other Maghreb and Muslim countries. It consists of geometrical mosaics made ceramic used mainly as an ornament for walls, ceilings, fountains, floors, pools, tables, etc.


The art of Zellige flourished at the Hispano-Moresque period (Azulejo). It then appeared in Morocco in the 10th century using nuances of white and brown colours.

The art remained very limited in use until the Merinid dynasty who gave it more importance around the 14th century. Blue, red, green and yellow colours were introduced in the 17th century. The old enamels with the natural colours were used until the beginning of the 20th century and the colors had probably not evolved much since the period of Merinids. The cities of Fes and Meknes remain the centers of this art.

Patrons of the art used Zellige historically to decorate their homes as a statement of luxury and the sophistication of the inhabitants. Zellige is typically a series of patterns utilizing colorful geometric shapes. This framework of expression arose from the need of Islamic artists to create spatial decorations that avoided depictions of living things, consistent with the teachings of Islamic law.

Forms and trends

The pallet of the colors of the zellige started to grow rich by colors which make it possible to multiply the compositions "ad infinitum" (see picture above). The most current form of the zellige is the square one whose dimensions are variable. Other forms are also possible in composition: the Octagonal combined with a cabochon, a star, a cross, etc. It is then molded with a thickness of approximately 2 centimeters. There exists in simple squares of 10 per 10 centimeters or with the corners cut to be combined with a coloured cabochon. To pave the grounds Bejmat, a paving stone of 15 per 5 centimeters approximately and 2 centimeters thick, can also be used.

Themes often employ Kufic script, as it very nicely fits with the geometry of the mosaic tiles, and patterns often culminate centrally in the Rub El Hizb. The patterns evinced in the mosaics is currently of interest in academic research in mathematics. Considerable research into modelling of these patterns has taken place.

These studies require expertise not only in the fields of mathematics, art and art history, but also of computer science, computer modeling and engineering as well [*"From Form to Content: Using Shape Grammars for Image Visualization", Source IV archive Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV'05) - Volume 00, IEEE Computer Society Washington, DC, USA] , as this has been done in the Hassan II Mosque.

Zellige craftmanship

Zellige making is considered an art in itself. The art is transmitted from generation to generation by "maâlems" (master craftsmen). A long training starts at childhood in order to master exceptional skills. [ [http://www.beton-decoratif.com/infos.htm beton-decoratif.com] ]

Assiduous attention to detail is very important in the process of creating Zellige works. The small shaped (cut according to a precise radius gauge), painted and enamel covered squares are then assembled together in a geometrical structure as in puzzle to form the final single piece. The process has not varied for one millennium though conception and design has started using new technologies such as data processing.

ee also

* Azulejo
* Girih tiles
* Islamic architecture
* M. C. Escher
* Tadelakt
* Tessellation

References and notes

*"Some of the content of this article comes from [http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zellige the equivalent French-language wikipedia article] , accessed January 03 2007."
*"Moroccan Ceramics and the Geography of Invented Traditions", Journal article by James E. Housefield; The Geographical Review, Vol. 86, 1997
*"The Elements of Unity in Islamic Art As Examined Through the Work of Jamal Badran", By Fayeq S Oweis
*"Engineering and fine arts research collaborations sprout from seed grants", By Scott McRae, Concordia's Thursday Report, Vol. 29, No.1, September 9 2004
*"Technical Glossary", Islamic Art Network, Thesarus Islamicus Foundation, Islamic Art Network 21 Misr Helwan al-Ziraa‘i St., 9th Floor,Al-Ma'adi, Cairo, Egypt

External links

* [http://www.saharadesigns.com/zellige.html Handmade zellige and Moroccan mosaic images]
* [http://www.casasud-deco.com/instructions_pose_zellige.html "Instructions of fixation"] fr icon
* [http://www.habibi-interiors.com/moroccan_tiles.html Loose Zellige Moroccan Tiles Images]
* [http://moroccandesign.com/uncategorized/moroccan-mosaics-the-art-of-zillij Moroccan Mosaics: Art of Zillij (Zellige)]
* [http://www.ceramicabicesse.com Cerâmica de Bicesse - Bicesse Tiles] , Traditional hand made and paint Moorish Cuenca Zellige Azulejo Tiles [http://www.euromkii.com SHOP]

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