The lavish illumination found at the opening to nine of the suras, or chapters, of this Qur'an (al-Fatiha, al-Ma'ida, Yunus, Bani Isra'il, al-Shu'ara, Qaf, al- Falaq, and al-Nas) is in a blue and gold palette that is characteristic of the production of Kashmir.
In the eighteenth century, Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim province in northern India, reemerged as a major art center in the Indian subcontinent after a period of decline. Following the annexation of the province in 1586, talented Kashmiri artists emigrated to the Mughal court; then, in the eighteenth century, the conquest of Kashmir by the Durrani Afghans appears to have spurred a major revival of the arts. Kashmiri artists of this period were actively producing fine Qur’ans, illustrated manuscripts, textiles, and a wide array of decorative objects for a variety of patrons and for the commercial market, including export to other regions of the subcontinent and beyond. Their distinctive style and artistic ingenuity inspired artists elsewhere in the subcontinent and in Iran.
This manuscript is an outstanding example of a Qur'an from Kashmir. Produced in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, it has the typical Kashmiri-style gold and blue illumination within a broad frame overlaid by protruding lobed archlike interlacings (the hasp motif) that extend into the margins of the page. The Qur’an has eight lavishly illuminated double pages inserted at the beginning of eight Suras: al-Fatiha, al-Ma’ida, Yunus, Isra’, al-Shu‘ara, Qaf, al-Falaq, and al-Nas. It is written in fine naskhi script, which is consistent in quality and evenness throughout the manuscript. The text contains Persian interlinear translations in red nasta‘liq.
Although Qur’ans in this style were made before the midseventeenth century, their production increased significantly in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As with other Qur’an manuscripts, these examples are rarely signed, and many (supposedly intended for the local market) are crudely executed. The present work, however, is notable for its fine illumination and outstanding calligraphy. Other fine examples are in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi, and in the Khalili Collection, London.
Maryam Ekhtiar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Bayani, Manijeh, and Tim Stanley. “The ‘Kashmiri’ Style.” In The Decorated Word: Qur’ans of the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, by Manijeh Bayani, Anna Contadini, and Tim Stanley, pp. 228–57. The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, edited by Julian Raby, vol. 4, pt. 1. London, 1999. See also Adamova, A[del Tigranova], and T[atiana Vladimirovna] Grek. Miniatiury kashmirskikh rukopiseii/ Miniatures from Kashmirian Manuscripts. Leningrad, 1976.
2. The Arts of Kashmir. Exhibition, Asia Society and Museum, New York; Cincinnati Art Museum. Catalogue by Pratapaditya Pal and others. New York and Milan, 2008.
3. Bayani and Stanley 1999, (see note 1 above) pp. 230–31.
Inscription: Qur'an, First chapter al-Fateha in naskhi script.
Sura headings (both pages) سورۀ فاتحه / مکیه و هی and below سبع آیه
Private collection, England (since 1940s); [ Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd., London, until 2009; sold to MMA]
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 282, pp. 397–398, ill. fig. 282.
Haidar, Navina. "Visual Splendour: Embellished Pages from the Metropolitan Museum 's Collection of Islamic and Indian Manuscripts." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). p. 118, ill. fig. 20 (color).