Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Folio From The Suwar Al-Kawakib Al-Thabita: The Constellations Andromeda And Pisces
Timurid, circa 1450 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, silver and gold on paper
21.3 x 14.7 cm
This illustration of the constellations Andromeda and Pisces belongs to a dispersed Arabic copy of the Suwar al-kawakib al-thabita (Book of Fixed Stars) by the Iranian astronomer al-Sufi (d. 986 CE), an analysis of earlier Arabic treatises based on Ptolemy and originally composed in Shiraz in 964 CE for the Buyid ruler ‛Adud al-Dawla (r. 949-83 CE). In this image, the figures and the borders of the page have been outlined in red. Andromeda, depicted as a woman in an orange robe with a grey undergarment, wears a crown-like cap with a gold rim over her long tresses while holding her arms outstretched. The fish Pisces appears to swim just in front of her feet, its head and gills once rendered in silver (now oxidised) and its fins and tail in a brown wash. A label has been written in naskh script in the top margin: “the constellation of the chained woman who did not marry as it is seen in the sky, together with the fish, which is located by Ptolemy.”Another manuscript of the Suwar al-kawakib al-thabita survives from the library of the Timurid prince Ulugh Beg (1394-1449 CE), who was fascinated with astronomy and commissioned and acquired numerous manuscripts dealing with this subject. This manuscript includes seventy-four colour drawings with figural personifications of constellations rendered in Timurid dress and often displaying Chinese-inspired fantastical creatures. Lentz and Lowry attribute its production to possibly Samarqand, circa 1430-49 CE (Lentz and Lowry 1989, pp. 153-54, cat. no. 56).
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