Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Folio From A Mamluk Qur’an
Mamluk, circa 1450 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
41.3 x 32.1 cm
Qur’ans decorated with illumination and gilding are known to have existed as early as the tenth century, their embellishment at first limited to marking a sura or chapter, as well as the headings and ends of ayahs, or verses. On the present folio, the Surat al-Naml is introduced in an elegant white script, outlined in black and placed within a gilded rectangular frame. The frame contains a gold background and a series of lobed cartouches painted in red and blue and decorated with gilded vine scrolls and rosettes. Twelve-petalled rosettes outlined in black and illuminated with gold petals and red dots indicate the end of each verse. The production of such lavish manuscripts required a team of calligraphers, artists, illuminators, and gilders, all contributing to a finished product that often represented the generosity and wealth of the patron who had commissioned it. While the patron of the codex to which this page belonged is unknown, the manuscript itself can be attributed to Egypt based on stylistic grounds. Its monumental muhaqqaq script is typical of Qur’ans produced under the Mamluks (1250-1517 CE) in the second half of the fifteenth century; earlier manuscripts would have avoided this script as it was also associated with the Qur’ans of the Il-Khanids (1256-1353 CE).
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