Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #20 – Carpet Pages

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to bring forward the topics of Carpet Pages.

Carpet Pages, or sometimes referred to the Illuminated Manuscripts of the Islamic world often decorates sacred texts of the Muslims and sometimes also used for decorating major literary or academic works. It is often put in the front pages of the book after the front cover (which also can be decorated just or more impressively), and sometimes also put in the back. With the Muslims vast decorating methods of Calligraphy, Arabesques and Geometry Art, these carpet pages are far different than the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Age Europe – Metallic colours are used, specifically golds and silvers, and there are significantly less figural motif used on the pages.

A Carpet Page for a copy of Al-Quran done by Ahmet Karahisari, 16th Century Turkey. Now kept in Topikapi Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.  This is from the first chapter of the Al-Quran, Al-Baqarah (1:1-4). Usually (and still is) The opening chapter and the first verses of the first chaper of the Al-Quran were heavily decorated with ornamentation and special borders and decoration.

A part of an ornamentation for a Carpet Page, most likely for a copy of the Al-Quran, now kept in a university in Istanbul, Turkey. There are knot decorations for the border, recalling influences from the Far East lands of China and its surroundings. The Geometrical pattern in the center is a unique artwork – The whole design is actually a stylized Kufic script, and from what it seems, it is the Basmala, the word recited before every chapter in the Al-Quran, which means “In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate”

Another cover for a copy of the Al-Quran, presumably made by Arghun Shah, made in around 1375. Now kept in The National Library of Egypt. It is almost certain that this particular manuscript is done in the Mamluk era of Egypt, judging from the calligraphy. It is also a fin example of Islamic ornamentation done in a smaller scale but no less making a great impact.

Another illuminated manuscript for a copy of the Al-Quran. This particular work is named Al-Bawwab, so presumably it is done by an artisan by that name. It is done in the eleventh century, and now kept in Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. This work is a fine example of knot ornamentation of the Muslim artisans. Cleverly integrated are geometric patterns of six-pointed stars, combined with Arabesques.

An ornamentation in a copy of an Al-Quran, made in around 900AD. It is now kept in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. While not entirely a Carpet Page, an illuminated manuscript can be made with ornamentation such as these. The ink is fading, as you can see the decoration behind the eight pointed star is nothing more than faded outlines. The decorations are still not fully developed and still have elements influenced from the surrounding civilizations, but it is starting to show on its way to a unique Islamic aesthetic identity.


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