On Generosity East and West: The Beauty of Comparison
Generosity is an attribute of the divine in the Christian West and the Islamic East. This essay examines how the art of these two great traditions image divine generosity, both explicitly and phenomenologically. Both traditions derive from iconic and aniconic imagery in the classical world, e.g. Trajan’s Column and the Ara Pacis. In the West the greatest example of generosity of the divine is shown in the sacrifice of Christ, an image that is implicit in Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington House Cartoon and even in the plans of the great cathedrals. In the East, the benevolence of Allah is proclaimed in the Qu’ran and in the aniconic decorations in sacred architecture. In this paper, the decorative programs Dome of the Rock and the mosques Isfahan—are “read” phenomenologically in relation to the Qu’ran as well as the texts of Mulla Sadra and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.