Marbled page: Page from a manuscript of the Mantiq al–tayr (The Language of the Birds) of Farid al–Din cAttar, ca. 1600; Safavid
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper; 13 x 8.3 in. (33 x 21 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1963 (63.210.44v)
The margins of folios in this manuscript of Mantiq al-tayr were lavishly decorated by Safavid artists. Some of them, such as this one, are embellished with marbled paper and sprinkled gold leaf. This page combines sumptuous Safavid marbled margins with finely penned nastacliq script of the Timurid period. Marbling demonstrates the dynamic design and subtle gradation of colors that were intended to enhance the reader's enjoyment. Marbled paper was made according to the following technique. First, multiple colors were dropped onto the surface of water, which was already thickened by a mucilaginous substance. Then rods or combs were used to make complex designs. Finally, a sheet of paper was laid down carefully to transfer the design onto the paper. According to recent research by Jonathan Bloom, Timurid artists learned the technique of marbling from the Chinese. From Iran, the technique spread to India, Turkey, and eventually to Europe.