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One-half of a double-page frontispiece, Juz 25

One-half of a double-page frontispiece, Juz 25 - Is 1614.2 Zoom

One-half of a double-page frontispiece, Juz 25

The Anonymous Baghdad Qur’an
Scribe: Ahmad ibn al-Suhrawardi al-Bakri, Illuminator: Muhammad ibn Aybak ibn Abdallah
1308, Baghdad, Iraq
Is 1614.2


‘Illumination’ refers to light and it is from the use of gold to represent light – usually Divine light – that the technique of decorating works of art (generally works on paper or parchment) receives its name. Islamic manuscripts in particular are renowned for their copious use of gold, most often in conjunction with a deep blue pigment made from ground lapis lazuli. Within the realm of Islamic art, the term ‘illumination’ refers only to non-figurative decoration, and the most characteristic motif of Islamic illumination is the arabesque, a scrolling and interlaced vine from which spring palmette leaves and/or blossoms.

This folio was once paired with a matching folio and placed at the beginning of section (or juz) 25 of a monumental 30-part Qur’an, the folios of which are now dispersed around the world. The first and last openings of text in each section were surrounded by illumination and, also, each chapter began with an elaborate illuminated heading. Some of the surviving folios are signed by either the calligrapher or the illuminator. Several are also dated, and from this we know that on average it took three months to illuminate one volume, about twice as long as it took to copy out the text.


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