6 More
9 More


Arabic manuscript on buff paper, the beginning with a series of alternated round and rectangular panels heavily and elegantly illuminated in gold, silver and polychrome and including religious invocations and names of God, flanked at either end by two unusual palmettes filled with bright floral arabesques against a silver and gold ground, followed by six cusped and variant cartouches (haykal) containing a lattice of ghubari, five around central gold illuminated medallions of variant form, a seventh with three small rosettes also filled with ghubari and bordered by a series of alternating long calligraphic and short gold cartouches, followed by the beginning of the Qur'anic text, the Qur'an arranged in a series of roundels in ghubari with gold rosettes in the interstices and contained within ovoid cartouches, the borders a series of alternating regular calligraphic and floral roundels, juz' headings in white thuluth reserved against polychrome panels of various forms, the colophon in white thuluth against gold illuminated ground and outlined by the continuing borders, scribe's name and date below in flowing black naskh, first panel a later Ottoman replacement
51ft.7in. x 4 7/8in. (1572 x 11.9cm.)
Djafar Ghazi, Munich
Tobian Nünlist, ‘Devotion and Protection: Amuletic Scrolls Dating from the 14th Century: A Contribution with Special Consideration of Is 1624 (Dublin)’, in Bethany J. Walker and Abdelkader Al Ghouz (eds.), Living with Nature and Things. Contributions to a New Social History of the Middle Islamic Periods, Bonn, 2020, pp.475-533.

Tobian Nünlist, ‘Dokumente in Rollenform aus dem 14.-19.Jh‘, in Heinrich Biesterfeldt and Sebastian Günther, Islamic History and Civilisation, Vol.185, Leiden, 2020, pp.465-68
The scroll opens with a panel with Allah in all four corners and half way along the sides. In the centre of the panel is Qur'an XXIII (sura al-mu'minun), v.115. This is followed by a panel with cartouches running around the borders containing Qur'an CXII (sura al-ikhlas), the phrase fa-ittaqu allah (so fear God) and a repetition of parts of Qur'an CXII (sura al-ikhlas). In a rosette within a shamsa are invocations to God. The ten quatrefoil devices that follow have further invocations. These are followed by a roundel with tawakkaltu 'ala allah (I put my faith in God) in the centre surrounded by repeats of the word Allah. Then comes a long panel containing the beginning of Qur'an LVII (sura al-hadid), v.3 bordered by Qur'an CXII (sura al-ikhlas). This is followed by another roundel with the remainder of Qur'an LVII (sura al-hadid), surrounded by repeats of the word Allah. Next comes a panel with 10 rosettes, each containing an invocation to God. This is followed by an ornamental device under which is written in faint letters tahrir fi sana 47[?] (written in 47[?]). A date of the 5th century hijra however is consistent neither with the style of the illumination, nor with the colophon at the end of the manuscript. This must therefore be a later addition. This is followed by the hirz-e yamani, prayers said to have been transmitted from the Prophet to 'Ali. These are divided into 7 haykals (protective prayers), written in tiny script diagonally criss-crossing the page. These all ask for God's protection against various evils and include the bismallah, the shahada and excerpts from the Qur'an including Qur'an CXII (sura al-ikhlas), II (sura al-baqara), vv. 255-256, LXV (sura talaq), v.3, III (sura al-'imran), v.16. In a cartouche beneath the seventh and final prayer is written du'a-ye hirz-e yamani, followed by an oval cartouche which contains Qur'an LXI (sura al-saff), parts of v.13, after which follows the Qur'an.

At the end of the Qur'anic text is a colophon within an oval cartouche which reads: bi-rasm khazana mawlana al-sultan malik muluk al-'arab wa'l ajam ghiyath 'al-dunya wa'l-din sultan Muhammad bin sultan aratna khallada allah mulkahu (Ordered by the treasury of our Master, the Sultan, the King of the Kings of the Arabs and Persians, Ghiyath al-Dunya wa'l Din, Sultan Muhammad bin Sultan Eretna, may God make his kingdom eternal).

After this follows an additional colophon which reads faragha min tatmim naqsihi [sic] al-'abd al-faqir al-muhtaj ila rahmat allah ta'ala mubarakshah bin 'abdallah al-i min jumla 'abid al-mawla al-wazir abi talib dama [wizaratahu?] fi'l-baqi fi'l-thamin wa'l-'ashrin min dhu'l-hijja sana arba' wa khamsin wa sab'mi'a ([The manuscript's] copying was completed by the poor slave, needy of God most High's mercy, Mubarakshah bin 'Abdullah al-i, from among the slaves of the Master, the Vizier Abu Talib, may God perpetuate his [vizierate?] forever, 28 Dhu'l-Hijja, the year 754.

Brought to you by

Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam
Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam Head of Sale

Lot Essay

This important scroll, copied by a little-documented but renowned scribe for the young ruler of a short-lived but powerful Anatolian beylik is an extremely rare survival of 14th century royal Qur'an production.

The Scribe:

Only one other work copied by the scribe Mubarakshah ibn 'Abdullah, is known. That is a magnificent thirty-part Qur'an belonging to the Mamluk Amir Sirghitmish al-Nasiri, and copied circa 1320-30, probably in Baghdad or Tabriz (now in Cairo and published in David James, Qur'ans of the Mamluks, London, 1988, pp.148-49). David James describes his hand as "almost identical to [that of] Ahmad ibn al-Suhrawardi" (James, op. cit., p.149). An album of calligraphy compiled for the Timurid Prince Baysungur describes Mubarakshah ibn Abdullah as of the sittah (the album now in the Topkapi Library (Ms.H.2310) and cited in James, op. cit., p.154). Although the compilers of the album were working within a hundred years of the sittah and more information regarding the oft-disputed identity of the sittah must have been available to them, the fact that he is not mentioned in this capacity elsewhere seems to preclude this supposition. Furthermore, had he been amongst the sittah, he would have been copying this scroll very late in life, which seems unlikely. As the second published work signed by the enigmatic but extremely gifted Mubarakshah ibn 'Abdullah, this scroll is an important document that fills a gap in early Qur'an scholarship.

The Commission:

The scroll was commissioned by Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (r. 1352-54 and 1355-1365) who inherited the beylik of Eretna in eastern Anatolia whilst still a youth. Eretna, the dynasty's founder was a commander of Uighur origin (and hence from eastern Turkestan) (Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties, Edinburgh, 1996, p. 234). When his master unsuccessfully revolted in 1327 to ally with the Mamluks in response to the fate of his father Chupan, Ilkhan Abu Said appointed Eretna a governor of Rum. When the Khan died in 1335, he was able to adopt the title of Sultan and establish his own beylik which was under the protection of the Mamluk Sultanate. Eretna's son Ghiyath al-Din, the patron of our scroll, was completely controlled by his vizier Hoca 'Ali however, and was forced into exile in Konya by a popular uprising. With the help of the Karamanogullari of Kayseri, he was able to regain Kayseri in 1355 and oust his elder brother Ja'far. He ruled for another ten years until 1365 when he was murdered by a group of rebels. This scroll was therefore commissioned during his first reign.

The Style:

The bright colours and fleshy but lively floral motifs that decorate this scroll are found in contemporaneous manuscript illumination, both in Mamluk Egypt and Syria and in Iraq. What is unusual however in the present example is that the illuminator, and indeed the scribe, have pushed the boundaries of the normal repertoire, both in the colours, motifs and arrangements used. Tobias Nünlist has recently undertaken a comprehensive study of related scrolls in which ours is mentioned. He identifies fourteen documents of similar scroll format dating from the 14th or beginning of the 15th century (of which ours is the second earliest and the earliest that is clearly dated). The texts are all religious or Qur’anic, He states that they are all of such extraordinary quality that the must have originated from an older tradition (Tobian Nünlist, ‘Devotion and Protection: Amuletic Scrolls Dating from the 14th Century: A Contribution with Special Consideration of Is 1624 (Dublin)’, in Bethany J. Walker and Abdelkader Al Ghouz (eds.), Living with Nature and Things. Contributions to a New Social History of the Middle Islamic Periods, Bonn, 2020, p.478).

Amongst those mentioned by Nünlist is a scroll in the David collection, attributed to Iraq or Syria, first half of the 14th century, which is very closely comparable to ours (inv. no. 37/1996, Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the World of Islam in the David Collection, Copenhagen, 2001, p.60, fig.9). There it is suggested that the intention was not to read it, as the script is diminutive, but rather to bring luck. It was further suggested that it was probably worn as an amulet or talisman housed in a case of leather or metal. The David Collection scroll is however half the length of the present, and as such this is just comprehensible - to have carried all 15 metres of our scroll around one's neck would have been an extraordinary feat! Another similar, but fragmentary, scroll is in a private Malaysian collection (published Islamic Calligraphy, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1989, pp.98-99, no.22). That is attributed to Cairo, circa 1360. These three scrolls form a coherent group. All three share an inventiveness of design, though ours certainly excels in this. The illumination of the Malaysian example is closely comparable and shares the distinctive purple colour that we have, for instance in the cusped quatrefoil motifs. The David Collection scroll is of very close layout to ours, with the Qur'an copied in tiny ghubari after various panels of elegant illumination surrounding Qur'anic verses.

The various attributions given to these comparable scrolls and to other manuscripts decorated in a similar style stems from a lack of colophons stating place of manufacture. Few Anatolian Qur'ans decisively dated to the 14th century are known, and many of those are in the Mevlana Museum in Konya and unpublished (David James, The Master Scribes. The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1992, p.194). The colophon of our scroll which explicitly states that it was a royal commission for an Anatolian ruler gives evidence which could re-address the attributions given to the small existing group of scrolls if not to a wider group of manuscripts.

More from Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Oriental Rugs and Carpets

View All
View All