Folio from a Qur'an Manuscript with Verses from the Surat al-Maryam
Folios from a non-illustrated manuscript
Made in Egypt or Syria
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Ht. 13 in. (33 cm)
W. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Purchase, Ehsan Yarshater Gift, 1975
Not on view
In these folios from a Mamluk Qur’an manuscript, verses are written in a black ink in naskhi script inside cloud-bands, a device inspired by Chinese art, against a hatched background. The sura heading is decorated with a geometric strip-work pattern, with three eight-pointed stars enclosing the name of the Sura 19 ("of Maryam"), the number of verses (89), and the place of revelation (Mecca) while contour spaces are filled with scrolls.
This illuminated folio in naskhi script contains verses from Surat Maryam, (Qur’an 19), the only chapter of the holy book dedicated to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The elaborate heading at the top of the folio encloses the name of the sura ("of Maryam"), the number of verses (89), and the place of revelation (Mecca). The text focuses on Mary’s motherhood and describes her childbirth in detail. Her exalted place in Islam is also mentioned in Sura 3 (al-Imran, The Family of 'Imran)where it is stated that she was revered and chosen above all women.  There are many powerful associations between the birth of Jesus and the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Cradle of Jesus is located on the Haram al-Sharif at the northern corner of the court at the entrance to Solomon’s stables. It is a small rectangular room where Jesus was laid down by Mary after he was presented at the Temple when he was only forty days of old. For centuries the Cradle of Jesus was an important place of worship and pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims. According to the Florentine Giorgio Gucci, who travelled to Jerusalem in the late fourteenth century and visited the Church of the Tomb of Virgin Mary, "Every morning early, many Saracen women and men enter the said church to worship, and more women than men: and this is the reason, because the said women have great reverence for Our Lady and have great faith in her. And every morning, while making the visits, we met Saracen women doing the visits, which, it is said, Our Lady made every morning for XIV years, which she lived after Our Lord; and in these devout and notable places they kneel and make reverence as we Christians." The presentation of Jesus at the Temple is thus a momentous event ingrained in the collective memory of believers of both faiths. Maryam Ekhtiar in [Boehm and Holcomb, 2016] Footnotes: 1. Qur'an 3:42, "Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee–chosen thee above the women of all nations" 2. See "The Cradle of Jesus and the Oratory of Mary on Jerusalem's Haram al-Sharif." pp. 138–39, in this volume. 3. Quoted in: Frescobaldi, Lionardo, Giorgio Gucci, and Simone Sigoli. Visit to the Holy Places of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Syria in 1384. Translated by Theophilus Bellorini, Eugene Hoade, and Bellarmino Bagatti, Jerusalem 1948. p. 129.
Rudolf M. Riefstahl, New York (until d. 1936; sold to A. Minassian by Riefstahl'sson); [ Adrienne Minassian, New York, until 1975; sold to MMA]
Drake Boehm, Barbara, and Melanie Holcomb, ed. Jerusalem, 1000–1400: Every People under Heaven. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 95, p. 179, ill. fig. 95.