7
7
An illuminated talismanic scroll, Near East or Mesopotamia, Ayyubid or Abbasid, 13th century AD
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT
7
An illuminated talismanic scroll, Near East or Mesopotamia, Ayyubid or Abbasid, 13th century AD
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Arts of the Islamic World

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An illuminated talismanic scroll, Near East or Mesopotamia, Ayyubid or Abbasid, 13th century AD
Arabic manuscript on paper, written in naskh and thuluth scripts in black and red ink, heightened in gold, incomplete
547 by 11.7cm.
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Catalogue Note

This impressively scroll is probably one of the earliest example of a talismanic work on paper from the Middle East in medieval times.

As Christiane Gruber notes, “the enduring search for spiritual blessing and physical protection has yielded a wide range of artworks and objects in Muslim cultures from the seventh century to the present day” (Oxford, 2016, p.33).

The main body of the test is occupied by talismans and prayers, either general in content or aimed at a more specific situation, such as the conquering of a loved one, securing victory against an enemy, or recovering from an illness. The production of talismanic manuscripts and amulets remained constant in Islamic tradition (see, for example, lot 44 in the present sale for another portable talismanic compendium).

Several talismanic scrolls survive from the nineteenth century but very few are dated to the medieval period. A slightly later-dated scroll (circa 1360), attributed to Cairo, presents a similar layout to ours, with cartouches and interlacing calligraphy (see James, 1988, p.98), but its surface is more dense, while this scroll's decoration is balanced and finely illuminated.

Due to the absence of a colophon or additional details on the patron of this scroll, it is very difficult to confirm a specific attribution. As noted by Anna Contadini, due to the complicated political situation during the Ayyubid dynasty and frequent changes of power, "it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not a manuscript from this area was produced under the aegis of an Ayyubid ruler" (Hillenbrand 2009, p.179). The geometrical interlace and the use of dark blue recalls the pattern found on a double-page frontispiece sold in these rooms, 20 April 2016, lot 1, attributed to the Ilkhanid, Ayyubid or Zangid dynasties int he late twelfth/early thirteenth century. 

On the other hand, the high quality paper, as well as some fine details in the decoration, points towards a Mesopotamian attribution. The shape of the lobed cartouches in the central panel as well as the palmettes which fill the space between the cartouches and the side of the central text are very similar to the opening bifolium of a juz' copied between 1198-1219 AD in Jazira, now in the Khalili Collection (inv. no.QUR497, James 1992, no.44).

The contents of the scroll are as follows:

On the sides: the vertical cartouches written in gold with several surah's verses, including surah al-A'raf (VII), part of verse 56; surah al-Tawbah (IX), verses 128-9; the bismillah, and surah Ya'sin (XXXVI) verses 1-66. 

On the central panel: seven talismans (haykal) followed by prayers in different shaped cartouches. Further talismanic prayers, mostly for specific purposes and occasion: for the entrance into fortifications (li-dukhul al-husun); for acceptance and love (qabul wa mahabbah); for the annulment of magic (li-faskh al-sihr); for entering war; for the rising of the sun; for the rising of the moon; the palm of Maryam (kaff maryam); for a sword blow (li-darb al-sayf); for the throwing of arrows (li-rami al-nushshab); the snake and the scorpion (al-hayyah wa al-‘aqrab); against headache (li-waja‘ al-ras); against tongue-tie (li-‘aqd al-alsinah); for the 'nun of Victory' (li-nun al-nasr); a blessed incantation (‘azimah mubarakah); a prayer entitled 'his ancestry is illustrious' (nasluhu mashhur).

The small red and black text: Qur'anic quotations and surah al-Ikhlas (CXII). 

Arts of the Islamic World

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