|Illuminated Album Page|
Single Folio from a Mamluk Qur’an
Two Lines from a Timurid Qur’an
Carved Wood Panel
Inscriptions in different epigraphic and calligraphic styles are to be found on virtually all types of artefacts of all media and materials created throughout the Muslim world in different periods. While some objects contain foundation or endowment inscriptions announcing who commissioned them, others are decorated with short repeating honorific phrases and pious invocations.
Qur’anic verses, hadith and supplicatory prayers are also inscribed on objects. Both the wood panel and porcelain dish are illustrative of the interplay of these various texts.
Illuminated Album Page with Sura al-Fatiha, Persia, Safavid, 16th century, nastaliq script in black ink on cream paper, with a border of blue paper decorated with scrolling floral motifs
Single Folio from a Mamluk Qur’an
Single Folio from a Qur’an, Egypt, Mamluk, 14th century, muhaqqaq script in black ink on cream paper
One of the finest periods of artistic output, which included the production of some truly outstanding Qur’ans, was between the 13th and 15th centuries when the Mamluks ruled over Egypt and Syria. The text on this beautiful individual folio is written on fine quality paper in muhaqqaq, one of the six cursive scripts that follow rules laid down by Ibn Muqlah and refined by other outstanding calligraphers such as Ibn al-Bawwab and Yaqut al-Musta‘simi. The decoration with red, blue and gold floriated patterns for the chapter heading, in this case for Sura al-‘Ankabut, is typical of much of the Qur’an decoration of this period and of contemporary Qur’an decoration from Timurid Persia.
Two Lines from a Qur’an Manuscript, Central Asia, probably Samarqand, 15th century muhaqqaq script in dark brown ink on buff paper
"Returning from my ride, I went to see an imaumzadeh, the only piece of antiquity in Cochoon... There are still preserved there some leaves that belonged to a Koran of the most magnificent dimensions, perhaps, of any in the world, the history of which is not less interesting than its size is extraordinary... [The leaves] when opened out, measure from ten to twelve feet long, by seven or eight broad; the letters are beautifully formed, as if they had been each made by a single stroke of a gigantic pen." James Fraser, Journey into Khorasan in the years 1821-1822
The Timurid period witnessed some superlative calligraphers, and the Timurid prince Baysunghur Mirza is alleged to have employed forty scribes at his court. This two-line fragment is from an outstanding Qur’an manuscript, the text of which was copied in seven lines on enormous sheets, each measuring about 177 x 101 cm (approx. 70 x 40 inches); with text on only one side, nearly 1,600 folios would have been required to contain the entire text of the Qur’an.
This manuscript has been often attributed to Baysunghur, but recent research suggests otherwise. It plausibly fits a very large manuscript described in Qadi Ahmad's treatise on calligraphers. Ahmad describes the calligrapher, ‘Umar Aqta’, as writing a huge copy "each of its lines being a cubit in length, and even longer." This manuscript may also have been produced for a huge Qur’an stand commissioned by Timur's grandson, Ulugh Beg, for the Great Mosque in Samarqand. The text is written on buff coloured paper in muhaqqaq script and consists of verses 44-45 from Sura Saba’.
Swatow Porcelain Dish, China, 17th century, painted in green and black, inscribed with Qur’anic verses and prayers