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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Hilya (Votive Tablet)

Object Name:
Votive tablet
early 19th century
Made in Turkey
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper, mounted on wood
H. 27 7/8 in. (70.8 cm) W. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920
Accession Number:
Not on view
Hilya, Arabic for "ornament," refers to a genre of Ottoman Turkish literature associated with the physical description of Muhammad. The concept originated from the shamayil, the study of Muhammad’s appearance and character. According to Ottoman belief, reading or possessing an account of Muhammad’s attributes protects one from danger, harm, evil, and sickness. It became customary to carry a hilya in the form of a scroll, calligraphic study, or an amulet. In the seventeenth century, hilyas developed into an art form with a standardized layout.
Inscription: Physical description of the Prophet in naskh. It also contains the basmallah and the central line "And we sent him as mercy for the world" (Sura 21/107) in thuluth.
"Written by Mustafa, known as [...missing] as a blessing for his disciple and son Izzat, may God prolong his life and increase his knowledge, Amen. O Helper."
The names of the four caliphs in thuluth appear in the corners.
William Milne Grinnell, New York (until d. 1920; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Celestial Pen: Islamic Calligraphy," September 28, 1982–February 7, 1983, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield," August 29, 2016–February 13, 2017, no catalogue.

Joseph Breck. "The William Milne Grinell Bequest." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., vol. XV (1920). pp. 273-275.

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