Art And Culture

Exhibit on Qur'an Artworks in Washington Gallery

Exhibit on Qur'an Artworks in Washington GalleryExhibit on Qur'an Artworks in Washington Gallery

In recognition of the remarkable collections of Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington are collaborating with the museum and presenting some of its finest Qur'ans.

The exhibition 'The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts' marks the first time that many of these beautiful artworks are on display outside Turkey and is the first major exhibition devoted entirely to the Qur’an in the US.

Almost 60 sumptuous manuscripts, created from Herat to Istanbul between the early 8th and the 17th century are featured in the exhibit. Celebrated for their superb calligraphy and lavish illumination, these manuscripts play a significant role in the history of the arts of the book in the Islamic world.

The volumes were once the prized possessions of Ottoman sultans, queens, pashas, and viziers, who presented them as gifts to other rulers, as rewards to noblemen, or endowed them to important public institutions. Together, the manuscripts convey stories of personal piety and political power that are explored in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.  

  2 Pages of 15th Century Qur'an         

Among the most interesting items are two consecutive pages of a huge 15th century Qur'an. The sprawling pages, each measuring 1.5 by 2 meters, have rows of calligraphy standing 20 to 23 centimeters high. They date from about 1400, and have been on long-term loan with the Smithsonian Museum, reported. While the feat of creating a tiny Qur'an likely required more skill, it is amazing that the calligrapher had the "bravery to attempt something like this," said Massumeh Farhad, chief curator at the Sackler and Freer and co-curator of the exhibit.

There would have been thousands of pages, but most have been lost to history, with only about 10 surviving. The two pages on display were among those found by a British traveler in a mausoleum in eastern Iran in the 19th century. Though the Arabic text of the Qur'an was fixed as early as the late 7th century, the exhibit showcases the variety of styles of calligraphy and illumination employed over the centuries. The exhibition which opened on October 15 will run through February 2017.

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