Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Sweet Chestnut Leaf With Calligraphy
Ottoman, 19th century CE
Materials and technique
Sweet chestnut leaf
28 x 13.5 cm
Qur’an verses were applied to objects using an astonishingly wide variety of techniques. One of the most beautiful and unusual examples is the gilded leaf, popular in nineteenth-century Ottoman Turkey. This example features a verse from Surat al-Isra’ (The Night Journey, 17:80): “And say, ‘Lord grant me a good entrance and a goodly exit, and sustain me with Your power.’” The calligrapher has made masterful use of his elegant thuluth murakkab script to create a calligraphic composition resembling a boat filled with a crew, their long oars dipping into the water that is the skeleton of the leaf. Related visually to Ottoman cut-out work or découpage, the technique for leaf gilding was actually quite distinct. The inscription was either written or stencilled and sealed on both sides with a wax barrier. The leaf would be soaked in an alkaline solution long enough to yield only its skeleton and the inscription. The virtuosity of the present example is further highlighted since its foundation is a sweet, or Spanish, chestnut leaf (Castanea sativa), a leaf more fragile than many of those employed for such compositions.
© 2007 The Aga Khan Development Network. This is the only authorised Website of the Aga Khan Development Network.