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Motif (visual arts)

For other uses, see Motif (disambiguation).

In art, a motif About this sound (pronunciation)  is an element of a pattern, image or part of one. A motif may be repeated in a design or composition, often many times, or may just occur once in a work.[1] A motif may be an element in the iconography of a particular subject or type of subject that is seen in other works.

Ornamental or decorative art can usually be analysed into a number of different elements, which can be called motifs. These may often, as in textile art, be repeated many times in a pattern. Important examples in Western art include acanthus, egg and dart,[2] and various types of scrollwork.

Many designs in mosques in Islamic culture are motifs, including those of the sun, moon, animals such as horses and lions, flowers, and landscapes. Motifs can have emotional effects and be used for propaganda.[3]

The term has become used more broadly in discussing literature and other narrative arts for a particular element or section in the story that represents a theme; see Motif (narrative).


See also


  1. ^ "Art glossary". Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ Lucy T. Shoe, Profiles of Greek Mouldings 1936, supplemented by Shoe, "Greek Mouldings of Kos and Rhodes", Hesperia 19.4 (October - December 1950:338-369 and illustrations)
  3. ^ Motifs in Jihadi Internet Propaganda (PDF)

Further reading

External links

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