Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Manuscript Of The Dala'Il Al-Khayrat (the Ways Of Edification) Of Al-Jazuli
Ottoman, dated Muharram 1233 H/November 1818 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper; binding: yellow and brown lacquer and gold
13.7 x 8.2 x 2.4 cm
The Dala’il al-khayrat of Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 869 H/1465 CE), a member of the Berber tribe of Jazula in southern Morocco, is a devotional prayer book comprised of a collection of prayers for the Prophet, a description of his tomb, his names and epithets, and other devotional material. Al-Jazuli compiled the material for the manuscript using books from the library of al-Qarawiyyin, the celebrated Marinid mosque and university at Fas (modern Fez) in Morocco. The Dala’il became the centre of a popular religious brotherhood, the Ashab al-Dalil, the essential function of which revolved around the recitation of this book of religious piety. This manuscript is an early nineteenth-century Ottoman copy of al-Jazuli’s text, opened to two fully illustrated pages containing depictions of Mecca and Medina. The images have been executed in black and painted in bright shades of red, blue, green, white and gold, with landmarks and attributes rendered clearly for immediate recognition; Medina is identified by a large courtyard and the Prophet’s minbar, while the Ka‛ba in Mecca is brought to the viewer’s attention as the focus of four mosques representing the cardinal directions. Covered in a black and gold cloth and set against a blue backdrop with gilded floral decoration, the Ka‛ba is framed by a geometric red and white circular band that spills out into the bottom half of the painting where the Prophet’s minbar appears. Views from multiple perspectives in both images result in stylized renditions of each city and prioritize the inclusion of essential information over naturalistic representation; they recall a rich history of geographic manuscripts with similarly executed illustrations in the Ottoman world dating back to the sixteenth century.
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