A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD
A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD
A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD
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A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD

Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 GBP

A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD

Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 GBP

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Lot Details

Description

A LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN GOLD KUFIC SCRIPT ON BLUE VELLUM, NEAR EAST, NORTH AFRICA OR SOUTHERN SPAIN, 9TH-10TH CENTURY AD

text: surah al-Baqarah (II), middle of v.20 to end of v.26

Arabic manuscript on vellum, 15 lines to the page, written in stretched Kufic in gold outlined in reddish-brown ink on blue-dyed vellum, single verse divisions marked with silver florets once decorated with coloured dots, faintly incised guidelines


28 by 37cm.

Condition Report

In fair overall condition, recto with losses and small tears to edges, gold lettering largely intact, some rubbing, creasing to outer margins, diagonal crease running from lower to upper edge to middle centre, verso with remnants of a marginal illumination to the left margin, gold lettering more rubbed than recto, creasing more visible and blue pigment slightly more faded. Leaf has undergone recent conservation in order to lessen effects of creasing, as viewed.


"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

Cataloguing

Catalogue Note

This leaf is from an extraordinary manuscript commonly referred to as the 'Blue Qur’an'. When complete it must have been one of the most luxurious manuscripts ever produced in the early medieval period in the Islamic world.


Emily Neumeier speculates that there were approximately 650 folios before the Qur’an was disbound and scattered with just over a hundred leaves known and dispersed. Other examples of dyed vellum are known, but rare, and yellow was the most common colour choice. The manuscript was probably symbolic as well as materially opulent and visually striking, delivering a bold socio-political message to neighbouring empires, by way of its combination of blue vellum and gold script which could rival the most luxurious manuscripts of the Byzantine empire, which were dyed blue or purple (see M. Fraser, and W. Kwiatkowski, Ink and Gold. Islamic Calligraphy, London-Berlin, 2006, no.46). The angular gold Kufic script was executed using the technique of chrysography, in which ground gold, suspended in solution, is carefully applied.


The exact origins of the Blue Qur'an are unknown, but scholars have pursued multiple intriguing and compelling theories over the last century. F.R. Martin, who acquired a group of leaves in Istanbul in 1912, suggested that the manuscript was commissioned by the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun for the tomb of his father Harun al-Rashid, and that the dark blue colour of the vellum was a symbol of mourning. However, based on an inventory of the Great Mosque at Qairawan in 1294 AD, (published in 1956 by Chabbouh), which mentions a Qur'an written in gold on blue parchment, J.M. Bloom has argued that a North African provenance is the most likely (J.M. Bloom, 'Al-Ma'mun's Blue Koran?', Revue des études islamiques, LIV, 1986, pp.59-65; and 'The Blue Koran. An Early Fatimid Kufic manuscript from the Maghrib', Les manuscrits du Moyen-Orient, Varia Turcica, VIII, Istanbul and Paris, 1989, pp.95-99).


Research by T. Stanley (Quaritch 1999, pp.7-15) points to an Andalusian patron, and M. Fraser suggests a Cordoban origin for the Blue Qur’an in Manuscripts in the Making: Art & Science I ed. Stella Panayotova and Paola Ricciardi (2017, pp.198-213) Alain George’s recent detailed and methodical study of extant Blue Qur’an folios from all over the world attributes the manuscript to the early Abbasid period in the late eight or early ninth century (A. George, 'Calligraphy, Colour and Light in the Blue Qur'an', in Journal of Qur'anic Studies, Volume XI, Issue 1, 2009, pp.75-125).


Whilst the exact geographical origins and story of the patronal commission behind the manuscript remain elusive, it is universally agreed that it is a startlingly luxurious example of early Islamic manuscript production. The now enigmatic patron must have been a ruler of enormous wealth and ambition, and it was one of the most important and lavish manuscripts of the Qur'an produced in the medieval Arab world.


A section of the manuscript is in the National Institute of Art and Archaeology in Tunis, while detached leaves or fragments are in the National Library, Tunis, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge Massachusetts, Metropolitan Museum, Chester Beatty (CBL Is 1405A, folio 1a) and various private collections including the Aga Khan Museum Collection, Toronto, Sarikhani Collection and the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London. Several leaves have been sold in these rooms, most recently, 22 April 2015, lot 62; 4 October 2011, lot 2; 5 October 2010, lot 7; 11 October 2006, lot 3, and in the sale of the Collection of the Berkeley Trust, 12 October 2004, lot 1.

Arts of the Islamic World
Live Auction Begins:23 Oct 2019 | 01:00 PM GMT