View full screen - View 1 of Lot 4. Five illuminated leaves from a large Qur'an in Bihari script, India, Sultanate, 15th century.

Five illuminated leaves from a large Qur'an in Bihari script, India, Sultanate, 15th century

Auction Closed

April 26, 01:36 PM GMT


15,000 - 20,000 GBP

Lot Details


text: surah hud (XI), end of v.16 to last part of v.25; beginning of v.55 to middle of v.87; surah ghafir (XL), middle of v.65 to middle of v.87

Arabic manuscript on paper, 11 lines to the page written in Bihari script in black ink, the text on stylised flowers in reserve against a hatched ground, the word Allah picked out in gold, verses separated by gold floral rosettes, text within red and black rules

text panel: 38.8 by 24.8cm.

each leaf: 49.5 by 34.6cm.

Of the few early, surviving Sultanate Qur’an manuscripts, only a handful are dated. The earliest example, the Gwalior Qur’an in the Aga Khan Museum (, is dated 1399 AD during the Tughluq dynasty (1320-1413), and another, dated 1435 AD, was sold at Christie’s, 28 October 2021, lot 38. A further North Indian Qur’an in the Walters Art Museum ( has been attributed to the fifteenth century given that the manuscript must pre-date the seal impression of Sultan Bayezid (r.1481-1512) found on various pages of the manuscript.

The remarkable originality and kaleidoscopic array of colour with shown in the illumination of those manuscripts is comparable to the present group of leaves. These leaves are decorated throughout with a ground of flowers in reserve against a pink hatched ground and a similar arrangement of gold flowers on a black ground is shown on the frontispiece of the Walters Art Museum manuscript. The floral ground is further highlighted with touches of green, blue and red and the resulting manuscript must have been an impressive chromatic display. Brac de la Perrière suitably describes the Gwalior Qur’an as an “extraordinary garden”, a sentiment that is reflected by the impressive decoration of these leaves (Brac de la Perrière, et al. 2010, p.119).

Illuminators in fifteenth-century India sought inspiration from other schools in the Near East and Iran, but adopted the imagery into a distinctive, and inventive, style (Brac de la Perrière et al. 2010, pp.114-5), and the hatched ground is a particularly Timurid feature. Similar hatching appears in a Sultanate Qur’an, attributed to the fifteenth century and produced on the same large scale as this group of leaves, with Sam Fogg (see Fogg 2000, no.14 and Brac de la Perrière, 2008, pls.40-41).

In addition to the illumination, the style of the Bihari used in these leaves closely relates to the examples mentioned above. The leaves present a free-flowing variation of Bihari with swooping strokes in which the waw, mim and ra’ terminals are positioned almost horizontally beneath the following letter. The energy of the script recalls Mamluk Qur’an manuscripts of the fourteenth century (see, for example, Sotheby’s, London, 7 October 2015, lot 222).