Study – Islamic Calligraphy Style ; Thuluth

One of the styles in Islamic Calligraphy is the Thuluth calligraphy style. Thuluth (Sülüs in Turkish) –  ثلث in Arabic – means one-third. It derives the name by the fact that in this style, every letter slopes in one-third. Large and elegant, it replaced the straight Kufic style preferred prior to the 10th Century as the script used in the writing of the Holy Quran and other decorations. Its form is very different from the Kufic style – Cursive, flowing style which became popular after the 11th Century.

Dimensions of Written Surface: 12.6 (w) x 4.7 (h) cm.Script: thuluth.This calligraphic panel includes a single line of Arabic text executed in black thuluth script. A simple prayer towards God, it reads:”Yakad yumasikuhu ‘irfan rahatihi rukn al-hatim / The grasping of God (al-hatim) brings the knowledge of His comfort.”The line of text is executed on beige paper and outlined in a cloud band on a gold background. It also is provided with a number of colored frames and is pasted to a larger sheet of orange paper backed by cardboard. The lower left corner of the line of text contains a square seal impression with the barely legible names: ‘abduhu (his servant) Muhsin (or Muhyi) al-Musavi and the date 1154/1741-2. Above the line of text and in the center of the green frame appears a minute a posteriori inscription, which reads: khatt-i marhum ‘Ala’ al-Din Tabrizi, shahir bi-Mawlana ‘Alabeg ast (“the handwriting of the deceased ‘Ala’ al-Din Tabrizi, who is known as Mawlana ‘Alabeg”).

‘Ala al-Din Tabrizi was a calligrapher active during the reign of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76), for whom he executed royal decrees (firmans). He executed a number of inscriptions placed on buildings in the cities Tabriz, Karbalah, and Qazvin (Safwat 1996: 84-88 and cat. no. 43, and 134-5, cat. no. 65; Huart 1972, 103; and Qadi Ahmad 1959, 79).Although the later inscription attributes the specimen to ‘Ala’ al-Din, it is unclear whether this Arabic prayer indeed was written by the great Safavid master calligrapher.

The style went through a number of changes and evolutions, and it is mark by three distinct ‘revolutions’, all three occurred during the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. Art historians classify the three revolution in the history of this styles as follow –

  1. The first revolution started in the 15th Century by the master calligraphist ŞeyhHamdullah. HE is famous for hand-writing and producing 47 Mushafs, or copies of the Holy Quran.
  2. The second revolution occured during the 17th Century initiated by the Ottoman Calligrapher Hâfız Osman.
  3. The third and final revolution started by Mehmed Şevkî Efendi during the late 19th Century and gave the script the look as it is now today.

One of the characteristic of the Thulth script is the implementation of the Harakat, unseen in the prior script Kufic style. The Harakat is the symbols signifying different meanings, often representing vowels sounds or sometimes as decorative accents.

The Thuluth script became the origin of many different scripts and styles such as the Muhaqqaq, Nasakh and Ruq’ah scripts.

ManuScript in Arabic on paper, China, late 16th to early 17th c., 30 vols. (complete) 50-60 ff. per vol., 20×28 cm, single column, (13×17 cm), 5 lines in a regional muhaqqaq book script, sura headings in gold on a dark blue ground with red ruling and frame, verses separated by gold rosettes, opening and closing double-page illumination for each volume with knotwork and arabesque panelling in gold and colours, frontispiece with 2 circles containing geometrical pattern of interlocking triangles and circles with diamonds containing the profession of faith above in Kufic book script, and 2 vertical lines of text in gold thuluth book script.

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