During the blackout days of the internet we were experiencing here in Brunei, I got quite some spare time to myself…Usually, I would whip out my trusty old pencil from my last years of school and a fresh new sketchbook. Too often, especially if I have too much things in my hand to do, I wouldn’t have any idea what to draw or sketch, but it is totally different this time around. What with the absence of distraction that is the wonderful world wide web the creative side of my brain switches to creative overdrive mode!
…Well, not exactly a creative overdrive mode since I am working on a theme almost too universal and almost all known by everyone – the Story of the Virgin Mary.
I was looking at art books featuring Christian, specifically Marian Christian Art. We all (presumably, if not most of us) know the story of the Virgin Mary – it differs according to your chosen version and religion but universally the story goes that a virgin girl named Mary or Maryam is chosen by God to bear a child named Jesus or Isa to become his Prophet. When I saw one of the paintings named the Annunciation, the one where the Angel Gabriel or Jibril is sent by God to Maryam /Mary to announce the child who she will carry in her womb, the idea immediately struck ; lets make an Islamic interpretation of this painting.
The story of Maryam and her son, Isa is story told many times in the Qur’an, the Islamic Holy book. My first instinct, when my thought is wanting to make the Christian painting Islamic, is to refer to the Holy book to find the specific verse that fits the scene of Annunciation and shortly enough, there it is – in the 3rd Chapter or Sura – The Family of Imran, Ayat or Verse 45 –
إِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلآئِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنْهُ اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَجِيهًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ
when the angels said: ‘o mary, allah gives you glad tidings of a word (be) from him, whose name is messiah, jesus, the son of mary. he shall be honored in this world and in the everlasting life and he shall be among those who are close.
So once I got the exact verse, I get immediately to work. first I copied the verse and created a calligraphic work using the Thuluth script. This is to be my base for the miniature. Then I cam up with the scene – almost similar to the Annunciation painting, but with Persian miniature style. The made two figures, one is Maryam on the left and on the right is Jibril. I used the same colour for Maryam’s robes in the Annunciation painting that is red and blue but in the clothing fashion of a Muslim woman. The robes of Jibril were different ; using green, one of the colours of Islam, with bright yellow, dotted with golden pattern. He is wearing an Islamic Turban. Also I painted golden flames on the backs of their head; Persian Miniature version of the Halo. I had deliberately left both of them faceless as not to upset Muslim sensibilities.
The scene is made up of a room, or building with an arch. On the top of the arch is a dome made of gold, decorated with medallions in red and blue, copying the colours of the Virgin’s robes. The Whole building/room is in blue, one of the preferred colour in Islamic art. It is accentuated with gold borders, with white calligraphy featuring the Qur’anic verse the painting is based on. On the sides features Geometric design, outlined in white.On the back of the figures you can see a popular geometric design motif in Islamic art, done in black, bright yellow and blue with ornamentation in white and gold. The ‘floor’ is in reddish brown, with geometric design of the eight-pointed star.
I then went on with colouring the rest of the page – I gave it a matching blue frame with gold borders. Surrounding the building/room is a light blue background. I intended to add more ornamentation in the form of arabesques, floral and animals, but I don’t have the right complementing colour (and the patience)
I then again went nuts with the design. I gave the ornamental borders a further decoration in the form of arabesques in white with gold accents. I stopped painting now (I ran out of gold and brown colour), but if I finally finish it, I will post it here 🙂 I plan to make more based on the story of Maryam and Isa, though I still need to see more Marian Christian art for inspiration and more Persian miniatures to emulate.