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The House of Wisdom Baghdad

From Cuneiform to Topkapi

In the Islamic world, where reading and literacy have always been highly prized for the access they provide to the word of God and the world of knowledge, books were objects of both…

Tile with Arabic inscription, Iran, about 1215. Museum no. 1481-1876

Calligraphy in Islamic art – beyond pen and paper

The development of sophisticated calligraphy as an art form is not unique to Islamic culture. Other examples include Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and illuminated bibles from north-west Europe including the famous Book of…

Album leaf with a Shii invocation, 17th century

This leaf of fine nastaliq calligraphy was conceived as an artistic endeavor, in which the writing is integrated with the ornamental background. The decorative technique of marbleizing paper spread from Iran to Turkey…

Leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides ("The Pharmacy"), dated 1224 Iraq, Baghdad School Colors and gilt on paper

Leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides

This folio is painted in the lively and appealing style of the Baghdad School: bright colors, sprightly figures in contemporary local dress, and a balanced, bilaterally symmetrical composition. The neutral color of the…

Leaf from Futuh al-Haramain (Description of the Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina), mid-16th century; Ottoman Probably Turkey, Ink, colors, and gold on paper, 8 3/8 x 5 1/4 in. (21.3 x 13.3 cm)

Leaf from Futuh al-Haramain

(Description of the Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina) Futuh al-Haramain is an example of a genre of religious writing devoted to the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage. It serves as a guide to pilgrims…

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Paper and Ink Prayer Mat

Made to fit the size of an actual Muslim prayer carpet, this piece is drawn only with black Bic pencils. Painstakingly detailed, it explores different ways and patterns to create a unique whole…

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