News ID: 113808
Publish Date : 08 April 2023 - 22:34

Islamic Calligraphy: More Than Painting

LONDON (Christies.com) -- Calligraphy, the art of beautiful handwriting, has a long and rich history in Islamic culture. It played a significant role in conveying the beauty and power of the word of Allah, and was used to decorate everything from religious texts to architecture.
Islamic calligraphy has a dual significance, since the manuscripts in which it appears are both religious documents and objects of beauty. Collectors admire the skill and mastery required to create the intricate and elegant designs, as well as appreciating their spiritual meaning and cultural significance. These enduring qualities continue to captivate people all over the world.
Through the ages, calligraphy masters have attempted to formally establish, or codify, a number of different types of script. The main division is between angular scripts — traditionally reserved for early Qur’ans and architectural decoration — and curved ones.
Among these curved scripts are the famous ‘Six Pens’ — six styles known as rayhan, muhaqqaq, naskh, thuluth, ta’liq and nasta’liq. Although codified in the medieval period, they have, remarkably, endured, and remain the main calligraphic styles today.
Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation — in which he was visited by the archangel Gabriel — is recorded in the Qur’an in Arabic, which was a key factor in calligraphy becoming the most revered of all art forms in the Islamic world. Monumental inscriptions, such as those of the Dome of the Rock in Al-Quds, appeared on mosques and shrines from as early as the 8th century.
However, although they were primarily used for decorating religious manuscripts and artifacts, fine scripts quickly found their way onto secular objects, being valued for their aesthetic qualities even in non-religious contexts.
The early form of Arabic script is quite challenging to read, even for a native speaker. Copies of the Qur’an at that time would have served as an aide-memoire for those who had already memorized the text by heart, so the elegance of the stretched forms of the letters could take precedence over practical communication.
The strong minimalistic aesthetic of the black text on white, highlighted with small red and green reading marks, gives a sense of the spirituality of this folio, which one can feel even without knowing the meaning of the text.
One of the most highly developed and valued forms of artistic production in North India and Persia was the creation of elaborate albums combining fine examples of calligraphy and delicate paintings. The individual elements of an album page were often drawn from different sources, resulting in a combination of works produced in a variety of locations at different times.
Sultan ‘Ali was the favorite court calligrapher of Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara (r. 1469-1506) and was acquainted with both Amir ‘Ali-Shir Nava’i and ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami. His works include some of the finest Persian and Turkish manuscripts composed
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