Moorish Beauty


Moorish Arts & Crafts Mirror with Bevelled Glass and Inlaid Woods and Mother of Pearl (LEO Design)


The term "Moorish" is neither precise nor very specific.  Through history, it has been used (often by Westerners) to refer to the people, the culture and the art of North Africa and the Middle East—combining-as-one the broad spectrum of varied Muslim and Arab civilizations.  As Muslims conquered and expanded into new territories, they brought with them their art and architecture, adapting it to suit (and blend with) the existing architecture of the subjugated lands.  Even outside of the Islamic world, Moorish aesthetic culture has influenced greatly the design of Western aesthetics (for many centuries).  In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, European architects used Moorish design elements to add theatrical flair to their buildings—seeking a new, dramatic flavor which was not as commonly-used as the Gothic or Classical Revival aesthetics.  Interestingly, many European Jewish synagogues of the Nineteenth Century were built in flamboyant (and very handsome) Moorish styles.  The Brighton Pavillion in England, built for the Prince Regent (later to become King George IV), was designed by John Nash in the "Indo-Saracenic Style" ("Saracenic" meaning "Arab" or "Islamic").  In the Twentieth Century, Italian Art Nouveau designer Carlo Bugati used heavy Moorish elements in his furniture.  P. T. Barnum built a Moorish mansion in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  And landscape painter Frederich Edwin Church built "Olana" along the Hudson—his exotic retreat, built and decorated in the Moorish style.  American music halls (on either side of the Turn-of-the-Century) often tapped Moorish architecture and decoration.  In the Twenties and Thirties, as  thousands of flamboyant movie palaces were built in large cities and small towns, they were frequently given a Moorish flair.  Shriners and Masonic Temples, too, were designed with a Moorish aesthetic.

The mirror above was made in North Africa or the Middle East around the Turn-of-the-Century—the Arts & Crafts period.  Small pieces of wood veneer are assembled (called "marquetry"), punctuated with inlaid Mother-of-Pearl.  The new, heavily-bevelled mirror holds-its-own in this handsome and beautifully crafted piece.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248