La sortie de "Arabesque" a provoqué quelques articles et comptes-rendu dans la presse, une allocution d'ambassadeur une "scéance" à l'IMA...
D'après "Courrier International" du 10/16 avril 1997, ce livre réalisait au Maroc la deuxième meilleure vente de l'année.

Voici d'abord quelques commentaires qui ont suivi la parution de la version anglaise, en 1999.



version anglaise
Worth every penny, August 30, 2000
Reviewer: A. Jesse Davis from Redmond, WA USA
I attended a lecture by Jean-Marc at Microsoft's MOSAIC (Microsymposium on Analysis and Synthesis of Intuitively Conceived Geometrical Art). Castera's work is unique and brilliant. The book is worth it for the hundreds, maybe thousands of giant color plates of Morroccan mosaics alone, and Castera's exposition of the artistic technique and culture of North Africa is excellent.

The core of his work, though, is the mathematical analysis of mosque mosaics, and his rigorous but accessible explanation of tiling rules is fantastic. He goes all the way from how to construct a Solomon's Seal on graph paper to multi-dimensional group theory and back again. I can't say enough good things about Castera's work and this book.

Consider it an investment in a lifetime fascination.


wew : Mathematical Digest

"The artists and craftsmen of Morocco...saw the beauty of geometrical and topological algorithms a thousand years before Escher and Mandelbrot," the reviewer writes. The book is filled with excellent photographs of examples of geometrically based decorative art and is enhanced by "Castéra's knowledgeable and insightful analysis." This is "one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen," the reviewer writes.

--- Allyn Jackson

... I saved the granddaddy of geometry books for the last. This costs about $175 from, but it is the ultimate statement and instruction on Islamic patterns. It concentrates on Morocco, where it offers beautiful color photos, followed by a series of drawings showing step by step exactly how the geometry was accomplished. Someday I'm going to go to Morocco with this book and a drawing pad and stay for several months. That would be paradise.

SCIENCE  20APRIL2001 VOL 292   pp445-446

Algorithms of Boundless Beauty
Gregory Buck (1)

   Most readers of Science are primarily interested in the truth, as supported by the scientific method. Me too. But all truths are not equal. I recall well when I first grokked Newton's arguments giving the spécial properties of the inverse square law. I was so moved by the elegance of the constructions, I found myself wip-ing away tears. Now why should this be ? Why should aesthetic appeal have anything to do with the truth? The question is particularly interesting to mathematicians. We make many of our working decisions on aesthetic principles accepting ugly proofs like an obedient child takes brussel sprouts, but reaching for pretty results like they are a plate of cookies. Answer the question and you'll get a chair in philosophy at Harvard.
   The artists and craftsmen of Morocco have never found any conceptual difficulty here. They saw the beauty of geometrical and topological algorithms a thousand years before Escher and Mandlebrot. The French artist and mathematician Jean-Marc Castéra has produced a book worthy of their efforts, a nearly impossible feat. Arabesques comprises nearly five hundred full-color pages of perfectly composed photographs by Françoise Peuriot and Philippe Ploquin that present decorative and architectural works of eye-numbing beauty. This extensive sampling of designs from Moroccan mosques, palaces, and, cities is accompanied by Castéra's knowledgeable and insightful analysis.
   Every bit of the featured work is mathematical. I have only space and time to mention rudiments. Thèse craftsmen understand planar tilings the way Kepler understood trajectories. They are happy to swim in the complex mathematics, as adept with symmetry groups as a salesman is with a cell phone. The designers evidently understand the fondamental facets of mathematical knot theory (which we now apply to DNA). They comprehend the symmetry properties some knots have (and others lack), and they clearly have command of the concept of alternating knots- if you trace any strand you will find that it travels under one crossing strand then over the next, and so on. This understanding is shared with another magnificent tradition of decorative topology, Celtic knotting (see especially the illuminated manuscripts of the Lindesfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells). Castéra does a fine job explaining some of the myriad approaches taken with the geometry. He also provides a pretty solution to one of the basic problems of such work: how does one even get started? The designs are so complex, the symmetries so demanding, that a novice could easily be flummoxed from the start.
   There are many wonderful details in this book. One of my favorites is a photograph of a collection of some of the complex tiles the artists use. (Home renovators: don't bother look for these at Tile World.) Castéra shows that several of the designs consist of a central motif of one symmetry group, a border of another symmetry group, and a transition zone which must be appealing but cannot carry either symmetry exactly. Such transitions are a recurring problem in aesthetics. Consider an analogous situation in music, where opposing tonal demands ask us to divide the octave in différent ways; the hard part is to make the whole sound good anyway. As the illustrations in Castéra's book demonstrate, the Moroccan artists make their whole designs look great.
   One cannot help but be impressed by the magnitude of thé artists' efforts. These design elements can take years to complete. Possibly the mathematical ambition is focused by the traditional Islamic prohibition on representations of humans or animals. Think of the song lyrics which might have been written if there were a ban on references to sex and drugs. (Well, maybe that analogy doesn't obtain: l'm not sure that Britney Spears would be singing about, say, non-euclidean geometry under any circumstances.) There is a sense of elation when one first realizes that these patterns are algorithmic. Castéra includes the proof in the book. His computer efforts produce designs that are theoretical équivalents of those created by the craftsmen, and even give them a pretty good run as images on the page. In one light, this is a near miracle. Perhaps we ail can fashion this sort of beauty; perhaps such handmade beauty need not cost a lifetime of bent backs and dusty lungs. But for me this elation is matched by a tactile melancholy. Why do we have hands if not to use them? Castéra observes that the Moroccan craftsmen seem happy. It is easy to imagine that they would be. How would you feel if your job was creating works of transcendent beauty to grace the public places of your community?
   It is trite but true to say that we are the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the history of Earth. Yet when we look out the window, what do we see? I suppose it depends on your particular window, but my guess is that your view doesn't offer the aesthetic equal of these Moroccan works. If you see human artifice, you likely see linear blocks. I imagine this seems barbarie to someone from Morocco. After all, the mathematics of our art and architecture we teach to ten-year-olds; the mathematics of their decorations, we study in graduate school. It should corne as no surprise that the great mathematical designer, M. C. Escher (the officiai artist of graduate student offices and mathematics departments), made his own trip to Morocco. Perhaps the reason Escher's work seems so surprising lies in our bias-he isn't of the western tradition. But by Moroccan lights his is the logical next step. If you want to understand Escher, call your travel agent or buy this book.
   Let's look out the window again. We see our artifice, regular as crystals. We see nature in its glory, the flora and fauna, and the fauna we're most fond of-us. The Moroccan craftsmen cannot represent the human form. But if they tried, we would not have this art; on the large scale, we do not appear algorithmic. However, one of the great technological achievements of the last century is the exponential improvement in our acuity. We can now see the very small. And in the universe of the very small, in the molecules and atoms that are us, we see this same algorithmic magnificence we create for our own pleasure. Thus it seems that the Moroccan artists and craftsmen render us after all. Their work and this book make me wonder: perhaps what exists in our imagination is as wonderful and beautiful as anything nature can create. You pick Arabesques up fascinated; you put it down humbled. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen.

(1) The author is in the Department of Mathematics,
Saint Anselm College, Box 1641, 100 Saint Anselm
Drive, Manchester, NH 03102-1310, USA. E-mail:


version française
Connaissance des Arts, mars 1997
Muséart n° 67, février 97
La vie n° 2676, decembre 1996 ("Coup de cœur pour...")
Demeures et châteaux n° 95, décembre/janvier 1997
Un joli article de Mme Magali Lucas, intitulé "L'incomparable musique des lignes".
Le figaro / Aurore
Le figaro Madame, décembre 1996
Le quotidien du médecin, décembre 1996
La tribune, décembre 1996
Maisons et décors méditerrannée dec.96 / jan.97
Méditerrannée magasine mars/avril 97
L'express 5/12/96
Notre histoire janvier 97
La nouvelle république du centre 17 décembre 96

Livres hebdo septembre et octobre 96


annonce de la scéance à l' Institut du Monde Arabe du 6 mars 97 (extraits)

"... Le livre Arabesques, fera date dans le domaine de l'architecture et des arts décoratifs, il sera à ranger parmi les quelques travaux consacrés en la matiière, ceux d'Oleg Grabar, de Titus Burkhardt ou d'André Paccard : le texte d'une grande densité de Jean-Marc Castera, mais toujours acccessible, allié à une très belle iconographie (photographies de Françoise Peuriot et Philippe Ploquin, dessins et illustrations de J M Castera), ne laisse de côté aucun élément des arts décoratifs du Maroc ; il nous livre les clés pour saisir les multiples dimensions de cet art et permet aux passionnés " d'accéder rapidement à la création en ce domaine."


Allocution prononcée par l'ambassadeur du Maroc (extraits)
Texte écrit par Monsieur Najab, attaché d'ambassade

"(...) À Jean-Marc Castera nous devons déjà un premier livre sur le Maroc, réalisé en collaboration avec Hélène Jolis et qui est très joliment intitulé "Géométrie douce". C'est avec la même douceur que dans ce nouvel ouvrage il initie le lecteur à la construction des motifs géométriques de l'arabesque.

Son approche de l'arabesque, pour étonnant que cela puisse paraître, est mathématicienne. Mais que les rétifs aux maths se rassurent. Jean-Marc Castera a pour son lecteur des égards d'une courtoisie rare. Il lui épargne les formules savantes et obscures pour ne les utiliser qu'en sous-main dans la mise à plat qu'il réalise pour rendre immédiatement visibles et accessibles les principes d'une construction qui feint de ne pas être savante. La courtoisie de l'auteur n'a d'égal que l'élégance de sa construction qui est -bien qu'elle s'en cache- une construction axiomatique.
Par la qualité matérielle de l'ouvrage, par l'art de la mise en page qui rehausse superbement les illustrations placées en regard du texte, nous sommes en présence de ce que j'ai qualifié dès le début de bel ouvrage. C'est, dans tout les sens du mot, un très bel ouvrage. Je ne dirai pas ce travail sans égal, je dirai que ce livre égale ce à quoi nous ont habitué les meilleurs." (...)

Hélène Jolis avec Stéphane Legendre, coktail à l'ambasssade

Femme au chapeau, J-M Castera, Stephane Legendre et douceurs marocaines