Stunningly Elaborate Ottoman Calligraphy Drawn on Dried Leaves

The study of Islam­ic cal­lig­ra­phy is “almost inex­haustible,” begins Ger­man-born Har­vard pro­fes­sor Annemarie Schim­mel’s Cal­lig­ra­phy and Islam­ic Cul­ture, “giv­en the var­i­ous types of Ara­bic script and the exten­sion of Islam­ic cul­ture” through­out the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, Per­sia, Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. The first cal­li­graph­ic script, called Ḥijāzī, alleged­ly orig­i­nat­ed in the Hijaz region, birth­place of the Prophet Muham­mad him­self. Anoth­er ver­sion called Kūfī, “one of the ear­li­est extant Islam­ic scripts,” devel­oped and flour­ished in the “Abbasid Bagh­dad,” Anchi Hoh writes for the Library of Con­gress, “a major cen­ter of cul­ture and learn­ing dur­ing the clas­si­cal Islam­ic age.”

Despite the long and ven­er­a­ble his­to­ry of cal­lig­ra­phy around the Islam­ic world, there is good rea­son for the say­ing that the Qur’an was “revealed in Mec­ca, recit­ed in Egypt, and writ­ten in Istan­bul.” The Ottomans refined Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy to its high­est degree, bring­ing the art into a “gold­en age… unknown since the Abbasid era,” Hoh writes.

“Ottoman cal­lig­ra­phers adopt­ed [mas­ter Abbasid cal­lig­ra­ph­er] Ibn Muqlah’s six styles and ele­vat­ed them to new peaks of beau­ty and ele­gance.” One of the peaks of this refine­ment can be seen here in these del­i­cate­ly pre­served dead leaves cov­ered with gold­en Ara­bic script.

This par­tic­u­lar appli­ca­tion of the art is, need­less to say, “dif­fi­cult and del­i­cate work,” say the notes on one such leaf in Sin­ga­pore’s Asian Civil­i­sa­tion Muse­um:

The leaf has to be dried, and the tis­sue has to be removed slow­ly so as to leave the skele­tal mem­brane. The sten­cil of the com­po­si­tion is placed behind the leaf and the gold ink with gum Ara­bic is applied over it. This art of pro­duc­ing cal­lig­ra­phy of a dried leaf, is one that was prac­tised most wide­ly in Ottoman Turkey dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry. Dur­ing this peri­od, Ottoman cal­lig­ra­phers were inter­est­ed in pro­duc­ing com­po­si­tions which took the shape of fruits, ani­mals and even inan­i­mate objects like ships and hous­es.

The exam­ples here come from a Twit­ter thread by Bayt Al Fann, an artist col­lec­tive “explor­ing art & cul­ture inspired by Islam­ic tra­di­tion.” There you can find many more elab­o­rate exam­ples and trans­la­tions and descrip­tions of the cal­li­graph­ic script — gen­er­al­ly vers­es from the Qur’an, Hadith prayers, and poet­ry. Learn much more about Islam­ic cal­lig­ra­phy in Schim­mel’s book; in her Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art bul­letin “Islam­ic Cal­lig­ra­phy” with Bar­bara Riv­ol­ta (free here); and in Hoh’s three-part Library of Con­gress series here. And find out how Turk­ish cal­lig­ra­phers like Nick Mer­denyan and Sal­i­ha Aktaş have rein­vent­ed the art in the 21st cen­tu­ry.…

via MetaFil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn Cal­lig­ra­phy from Lloyd Reynolds, the Teacher of Steve Jobs’ Own Famous­ly Inspir­ing Cal­lig­ra­phy Teacher

The Mod­el Book of Cal­lig­ra­phy (1561–1596): A Stun­ning­ly Detailed Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­script Cre­at­ed over Three Decades

Free: Down­load Thou­sands of Ottoman-Era Pho­tographs That Have Been Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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