Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Frontispiece From A Manuscript Of The Sulwan Al-Muta' Of Ibn Zafar: Three Young Hunters
Mamluk, circa 1325-50 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
Page 24.7 x 16.9 cm; Image 13.7 x 11.2 cm
Three young men dressed in sumptuous garments embellished with gold tiraz bands on their arms and turbans are ready for a hunt. One has a bow in a brown case and arrows (left); the central figure carries a brown and white hawk; and the figure on the right holds a blue long-necked bird. This painting is the right side of a double frontispiece from a manuscript of the Sulwan al- muta' fi 'udwan al-atba' (Comfort of rulers when faced with the hostility of their followers). The work uses Qur’anic verses, sayings and traditions of the Prophet (hadıth), animal fables, and princely characters from ancient Persian history to advise princes on conduct and the preservation of power and leadership. A. S. Melikian-Chirvani’s facsimile publication and discussion of the manuscript demonstrates its value as a sharp commentary on “injustice, social exploitation and political oppression,” as well as the manuscript’s importance for the history of Arab painting (Melikian-Chirvani 1985). The text was composed in 1159 CE by Ibn Zafar al-Siqilli (“the Sicilian,” d. 1170 CE), an Arab philosopher and prolific author who travelled extensively and was born probably in Norman-ruled Sicily in 1104 CE. The frontispiece belongs to a copy of the manuscript which is in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
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