Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; tooled leather binding
Ht. 19 1/2 in. (49.5 cm) W. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1975
Not on view
The Qur'an consists of 114 chapters (suras) of uneven length. A system was therefore devised to divide the Qur'an into thirty equal parts, enabling a reading of generally uniform length each day of the month. This manuscript is the nineteenth section of the Qur'an and begins in the middle of chapter twenty-five, al-Furqan (the Differentiator). It has a Turkish interlinear translation, which may have been added a century or more after completion of the manuscript.
This Qur’an consists of 114 chapters (suras) of uneven length. A system was therefore devised to divide the book into 30 equal parts, enabling a reading of generally uniform length each day of the month. The result is that sections can begin in the middle of a sura, as is the case with section 19 here, where the text starts with verse 23 of sura 25, "al-Furqan" (The Differentiator). Written on paper in black ink in muhaqqaq script, the Qur’an contains an interlinear Turkish translation added in a smaller script at a later date than the Arabic. The manuscript ends in the middle of verse 41 of sura 27, but the last three words of the verse were squeezed in next to the line, most likely by someone other than the scribe.
Because of the interlinear Turkish, this manuscript has been attributed to Iraq or Turkey of the second half of the thirteenth century, after the Mongol invasions and conquest of Baghdad in 1258. In addition, the style of the illuminated juz’ heading with its looping vines drawn in black ink and lively blue palmette leaves recalls that of a Munajat attributed to the Jazira (MMA 1995.324). Muhaqqaq calligraphy is one of the so-called six pens, or six rounded scripts whose rules were refined by the thirteenth-century master Yaqut, active in Baghdad in the second half of the thirteenth century. This elegant style of writing became the favorite of calligraphers copying Qur’ans for patrons from Egypt to Iran from the late thirteenth through the fifteenth century.
Although the illumination on the facing page incorporates details, such as the gold geometric interlace border, known from twelfth-century and earlier pages, the strict geometry of the composition is mitigated by the blue leaves, petals, and scrolls in the central roundel, its border, and the inscription bands above and below the field. The four circles in the corners of the field contain crescents filled with petals surrounding a smaller circle that has now darkened. The device recalls depictions of the moon such as those held by the central figures in the frontispieces of the Kitab al-diryaq (Book of antidotes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris [Arabe 2964]). While a Qur’an would not contain a literal depiction of the moon, such a detail subliminally suggests God’s dominion in heaven as well as on earth.
Sheila R. Canby in [Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016]
1- The translation most likely dates from the early or middle Ottoman period (14th–16th century).
2- Part of this juz’ is most likely missing, since the nineteenth section usually ends with sura 27, verse 55. Moreover, the juz’ customarily begins with verse 21 or 22 of sura 25.
3- Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh, 2006, p. 242, notes the lack of agreement on the birth and death dates of Yaqut, stating that he was born in the first or second decade of the thirteenth century and died between 1297 and 1299.
4- Schimmel, Annemarie, and Barbara Rivolta. "Islamic Calligraphy." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 50, no. 1, summer 1992, p. 16.
Dikran G. Kelekian, New York (before 1935–d. 1951); [ Charles Dikran Kelekian, New York, 1951–75; sold to MMA]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs," April 25, 2016–July 24, 2016, no. 189.
Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, and Martina Rugiadi. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 189, p. 289, ill. (color).