Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Folio From The 'Qarmathian Qur’an'
Seljuq, 12th century CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
Page 31 x 20.8 cm
This folio is from a dispersed copy of the so-called “Qarmathian Qur’an,” one of the most elaborate large-scale Qur’an manuscripts produced between the eleventh and early thirteenth centuries. Each page contains four lines of a broken angular cursive script, characterised by towering verticals anchored to a strict horizontal baseline with dramatic modulation between thin and thick strokes. The decoration of each folio is appropriately extravagant. The script is complemented by a detailed background of stylized palmette scrolls in reserve white on a ground of blue curls. These motifs recall contemporary ceramics and metalwork. Lavish gold braided borders frame the text and two half-medallions project into the right margin. The faded gold text panel on the right may have indicated the number of verses in the sura, or where it was revealed, according to Sheila Blair, who also remarks that such extensive decoration executed on an estimated total of 4,500 pages must have been an extraordinarily time-consuming enterprise (see Blair 2006, p. 198).
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