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Arabic manuscript on paper, 266ff. each with 13ll. of black naskh, gold and polychrome rosette verse markers, sura headings in larger gold thuluth outlined in black, hizb, sajada and juz' markers in similar thuluth in the margins, further red marginal notes, opening bifolio with geometric carpet page, some scuffing and marginal repairs, red marginal notes, in later brown morocco with flap and stamped central medallion
Folio 12½ x 9¼in. (31.5 x 22.5cm)

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Romain Pingannaud
Romain Pingannaud

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Lot Essay

This Qur'an can perhaps be seen as a prototype for what is later dubbed by David James, the 'star polygon group', a collection of magnificent Qur'ans made during the reign of Sultan Sha'ban (1363-1376) (David James, Qur'ans of the Mamluks, London, 1988, p178). Lings, in his discussion of the Mamluk frontispiece from the early 14th century describes it as a 'a geometric composition often with a central star polygon, or some other centrifugal device, surrounded by elaborate alternating palmettes' (Martin Lings, The Qur'anic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination, London, 1976, p.39).

In terms of style, the illumination of our Qur'an relates to a magnificent example of the 'star polygon group' in the National Library, Cairo which is signed and dated AH 757/1356 AD (published in Martin Lings, op. cit., no.74). That Qur'an shares with ours a web of geometric interlace outlined with plain white borders and radiating from a central star - in that case 12-pointed in our case 8. Both have ovoid panels containing text in white thuluth above and below set within gold clouds on blue ground with loose fleshy leaves, and strapwork borders surrounding the geometric lattice. The Cairo example is undoubtedly more complex in conception and fine in illumination than the present - indeed it was made a waqf by Sultan Sha'ban in 1368 for his mother's madrasa (the madrasa of Khwand Barakah in the Khatt al-Tabbanah in Cairo). However the features that it shares with ours seem to indicate that ours is either a prototype for the 'star polygon group' or a contemporaneous example albeit not a royal commission.

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