Illuminated Double-page Opening of the Qur’an

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Illuminated double-page opening of the Qur’an Dated AH 1032/1623 CE, Ottoman lands Ink and gold on paper Special Collections, Hatcher Graduate Library, Isl. Ms. 167

Opening of the Qur’an

As a sacred text, the Qur’an is frequently illuminated, as can be seen in this particularly fine 17th-century Ottoman example. Illumination is a nonfigurative form of ornamentation in which a manuscript page is decorated by colored pigments, in particular lapis lazuli and gold. Because of its lustrous properties, gold is the favored medium for illumination. It can be applied as foil or paint, the latter allowing much finer detail work. In this manuscript copy, a large portion of the page is covered in gold and further decorated with flowers and vegetal patterns painted in red, blue, and various pastels. Besides adding radiant beauty and material value, this type of illumination also bestows visual majesty, thereby metaphorically showing the Qur’an as the "enlightened" word of God.

Bibliography: Manuscript's online catalogue entry; Waley 1991; and Zakariya 1991, 5.

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