A dancer with a Vina

dancerwithavina17thcent This picture is 17th century Persian, although originally found in Turkey. It is a leaf from a manuscript, 11 cm by 19.1 cm. The dancer is holding a vina, which is an Indian instrument. The picture is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Recommended reading about Indian music
Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music edited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis. Via Google Books.

Musical Instruments of the Indian Subcontinent by Allen Roda. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

History of Indian music by P. Sambamoorthy. Via Internet Archive.

More Islamic amulets

Digital Capture This is a brass amulet from Ghaznavid ruled Persia in the 10th century. The amulet is pierced and incised brass which is 2.4 cm in diametre. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

neilloamulet10thcentiran This amulet case is silver inlaid with black niello and made between the 10th-11th century in Samanid ruled Iran. The niello is in curlicue and kufic inscription. The inscription is a blessing for a man named Hasan ibn Ahmad, probably the owner of the case. It would have held a verse of the Qur’an. The size is 4.6 cm by 4.3 cm by 1.2 cm. The amulet is in the the David Collection.

seljukamuletcase12thcent This amulet case is from the early 12th century Seljuk Empire. It is 3.4 cm wide, made of gold and decorated by repoussé with a kufic inscription. It was sold by Christies for £5,875 ($9,306).

ghuridamuletcase12thcent This case is also gold decorated by repoussé but from north-east Iran ruled the Ghurid Dynasty. It is 4.5 cm wide, with a kufic inscription al-mulk li’llah or ‘Sovreignty is God’s’. It was sold by Christies for £16,100 ($32,764).

The cases would have held text from the Qur’an such as-
quranscroll14thcent This scroll is from the 14th century to be kept in a case. It is 755 cm long and 10 cm wide. It contains 114 chapters of the Qur’an (or suras) as well as the 99 names of Allah. It is in the David Collection.

Recommended reading
Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Marilyn Jenkins & Manuel Keene. Via Google Books.

Please see the previous post Islamic amulets for more recommended reading.

Coptic manuscripts

This Coptic bible was thought to have been made between 700-900 C.E. in Wadi El Natrun in Egypt. The bible possibly belonged to the Kasr Deir es Surian, or Castle of the Monastery of the Syrians which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The book is 14.9 by 10 cm and made of ink on parchment. The geometric design of the cross is a well known Coptic design and there is both Arabic and Coptic writing (for those who no longer read Coptic). The book is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This manuscript is a “cookbook” of magical spells, written between the 6th and the 7th centuries C.E. It is 19 by 64.5 cm, made of black ink on leather. The manuscript is in the British Museum, just like this one- and these
These particular magician’s notes were written about by W. E. Crum in two different articles (available from JStor)-
Magical Texts in Coptic: I & Magical Texts in Coptic: II.
Another JStor articles about the hoard- A Coptic Wizard’s Hoard by W. H. Worrell and The Coptic Wizard’s Hoard by Paul Mirecki.
More manuscripts can be seen on Coptic Icon E-Gallery (although there is no information about the manuscripts) and on Biblical-data.com. There is also a collection at the Chester Beatty Library but you need to look through the images to see the online gallery.
Recommended reading
The Amherst papyri : being an account of the Egyptian papyri in the collection of the Right Hon. Lord Amherst of Hackney, F.S.A. at Didlington Hall by William Amherst, W.E. Crum and Percy Newberry. Via the Internet Archive.
Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the British Museum by W.E. Crum. Via the Internet Archive.
Short texts from Coptic ostraca and papyri by W.E. Crum. Via the Internet Archive.
The Morgan Collection of Coptic Manuscripts. Unknown author. JStor article.
The J. P. Morgan Collection of Coptic Manuscripts by Henri Hyvernat. JStor article.

Ebru paper marbling

Paper marbling (known as ebru) was done in Turkey and Persia in the 16th century. It was thought to have spread from the east through Anatolia from the 13th century but the earliest examples found are late 16th century. This is dated to 1540, as it was dated and signed by the artist himself. It is currently in the Topkapi Saray Museum. There is also one in the same time period in the Brooklyn Museum, though this one is Persian- The marbling is done by swirling oil pigments mixed with ox-gall in a viscose fluid (water with gum tragacanth). The paper is carefully laid on top, which means that every paper with marbling is a unique design. This YouTube clip shows how it is done- And this one- The main problem with dating the ebru paper is that the paper is used to re-bind manuscripts. So while the manuscripts could be 13th century, the binding itself (or the backing of individual pages) could be 17th or even 18th century. This picture is a Persian woman adjusting her aigrette and is dated to 1590. The ebru is a later date. The painting is in the Freer & Sackler Gallery.
Recommended reading
The Art of Marbling on The Ottomans.Org.
Ebru: The Art of Paper Marbling on MuslimHeritage.com.
Ebru (Paper Marbling) by B. Akbal-Delibas.
The Digital Art of Marbled Paper by B. Tevfik Akgun. JStor article.
Ebru: The Cloud Art by Robert Arndt. Via Saudi Aramco World Magazine.

Dancers & musicians in the Shahnama

This is a folio sheet from the Shahnama, a poem written by Hakīm Abu’l-Qāsim Ferdowsī Tūsī in the 11th century. However, this particular illumination was done in the Safavid period, between the years 1520-1530 C.E. The picture is 30.8 cm by 18.0 cm, in opaque watercolours. The page is in the Freer & Sackler Museum.

The one of the legends of the Shahnama is of Bahram Gur. The picture is the daughters of Barzin dancing for Bahram Gur. The dancer has possibly a belt in her left hand and an instrument slung over her body. The second dancer is possibly clapping. The instruments being played are a large tambour and a chang (or harp) player.

Princeton University has a Shahnama Project, where thumbnails of the Shahnama is able to be viewed.
Recommended reading
The Persian Book of Kings: An Epitome of the Shahnama of Firdawsi translated by Basil William Robinson. Via Google Books.
History of the Chang by the Farabi School.
Traditional Iranian Music by the Toos Foundation.
Dance- Raqs written by A. Shapur Shahbazi & Robyn C. Friend. From Encyclopædia Iranica.
Research and Reconstruction of an Ancient Persian Harp from the International Art & Architecture Research Association.

The Conference of the Birds

The Conference of the Birds (also known as Mantiq al-Tayr) is a 12th century Persian poem written by Farīd ud-Dīn ‘Attār. This picture is from a Safavid book from the early 17th century. It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the poem, the birds of the world gather to choose a king, believing that it would bring harmony to all the birds. The hoopoe bird, wisest of the birds, persuades the other birds to seek out the Simurgh, which lives on Mount Qaf. The birds travel through the valleys of quest, love, gnosis, contentment, unity, wonder, and poverty. When they reach the Simurgh, only thirty birds remain. They see themselves reflected in the Simurgh, so see themselves. The poem is an allegory on the Sufi path to Allah through self-annihilation.
Recommended reading
Bird Parliament by by Farid ud-Din Attar. Translated by Edward FitzGerald (1889).
The Conference of the Birds. In four parts.

A Persian exhibition in 2012

The State Library of Victoria will be holding a free exhibition next year called Love and devotion: Persian cultural crossroads from Friday 9 March 2012 – Sunday 1 July 2012. A preview can be seen here- The exhibition is also holding a conference with many speakers. This will be on Thursday 12 April 2012 – Saturday 14 April 2012.

Manuscripts, calligraphy and seals

There are many digitised manuscripts available through universities and libraries. Here are a few that I have been told about-

The Yemen Manuscript Digitization Initiative– This is a combined project with Princeton Uni & Free University, Berlin. They have been digitising Yemeni manuscripts from private libraries and making them public.

The Islamic Manuscripts Collection at the University of Michigan. There are catalogue details, as well as some pictures up in the Hathi Trust Digital Library, which is where the images of the manuscripts can be located.

The Walters Art Museum– the Digital Walters. Not only are their Persian, Ottoman and Arabic manuscripts but also many European manuscripts.

Vivarium– The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. This is the digitised collection from Saint John’s Abbey and University. This also includes their coloured microfiche collection.

MENALIB– The Middle East Virtual Library. This is run by State and University Library Saxony-Anhalt in Halle, Germany.

Chester Beatty Library has an interactive seal collection. If you know how to decipher seals, they are looking for your input!

Finally, for those wishing to learn Middle Eastern calligraphy, Calligraphy Qalam shows beginners how to do Arabic, Persian and Ottoman calligraphy.