'The pursuit of a morsel to eat and the dervish cloak should in no moment
Inflict damage on the people.
A husk of bread should suffice for a day,
And a worn cloak is fitting for a lifetime.'
As noted by Sheila Blair, paper-cutting marks the ultimate conceit in the art of calligraphy (Blair 2006, p.56). The art of collage and découpage, called qat' in Persian and kat in Turkish developed in the fifteenth century, probably inspired by the use of leather and paper filigree in the doublures of Timurid bindings. One of the earliest examples is a manuscript in Arabic copied by Muhammad ibn Sayyidi Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-Sufi al-Maraghi, dated 876 AH/1471-2 AD and now in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul, ms.2474, which displays both collage and découpage in several different scripts (Blair 2006, p.55). The Timurid period and especially the court of Sultan Husayn (r.1469-1506) saw the emergence of collage and découpage masters such as ‘Abdallah of Herat and Shaykh ‘Abdallah Haravi and his son Dust Muhammed 'the cutter' (qata’). Some Persian artists emigrated to the Ottoman court, where this art was further developed to reach its apex.
One of the earliest collections of découpe and collage is a collection of Hadith made for the Ottoman prince Mehmed, dated to circa 1540 and copied by ‘Abd al-Hayy ‘Ali. But it is towards the end of the sixteenth century that the art of découpage and collage reached its peak with the master Fakhruddin al-Bursavi (d.1617). The only artist mentioned in the history of calligraphers written in 1580 by Mustafa ‘Ali, Fakhri excelled both in the art of collage as well as découpage. An itinerant artist and possibly a member of the Mevlevi Sufi order (Butler-Wheelhouse in Sam Fogg 2017, p.93), Fakhri was recognised as the master of Ottoman découpage from early on - he is even mentioned by Evliya Çelebi (d.1682) in his Seyahatname, where he compares the carving on the minarets of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne to the cut-out motifs of “the Master Fakhri” (Butler-Wheelhouse 2017, p.90).
Two cut-paper album pages signed by Fakhri are now in the RISD Museum, Rhode Island (inv.17.489 and inv.no.17.500, Froom 1999, pp.8-11). A further cut-out album page included in an album compiled in 1572-73, later dedicated to Sultan Murad III, is now in the National Library in Vienna, f.40b, inv. no.AC14387500 (https://search.onb.ac.at/). Another is published in Ünver 1980, p.12, and other découpe and cut-paper album pages are found in an album for Sultan Ahmed I (r.1603-17) now in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul (Inv. no.TSMK H.2161).
Two découpe pages are recorded but not illustrated in the Chester Beatty Library catalogue by Minorsky 1958, no.415, p.25). Two découpe album pages signed by Fakhri were sold in these rooms, 19 October 2016, lot 125 and 6 October 2010, lot 57.
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