Qur'an and Scrolls - Double page of the „blue Qur’an”
Ink, gouache, silver (oxidised) and gold on blue painted vellum
Size: 26 x 69 cm
Text: Sura al-Furqan (The Discrimination) 25:55-64
Origin and time: North Africa, 9th -10th Century
Catalogue: Schätze des Aga Khan Museum, AKTC
Inv.No. AKM 00477
This remarkable double page showing golden Kufic script on indigo painted vellum is a part of the unique “blue Qur’an”, one of the best-elaborated Qur’an manuscripts ever created. Every detail of this manuscript was arranged with the most diligence, as the complex and extravagant chrysography shows. Silver rosettes (now oxidised) were used as verse stops. The obvious plainness of the decoration and the illumination despite the use of the most distinguished materials - indigo painted vellum, silver and gold – combined with the angular Kufic script by all means impress spectators whether or not understanding the Arabic scripture. Although both pages are linked, they are not sequential in the manuscript. Each page contains 15 lines and shows a very dense, squared Kufic style typically occurring in manuscripts of the 10th century. The text does not contain any diacritical sings indicating vowels. Some letters are elongated to create lines of equal length. The minimized illumination puts the script rhythm into the centre of attention: at the margin of the left page a smudged silver rosette marks the end of a group of 20 verses.
There are different views about the exact origin of the manuscript. Considering palaeographic and historic evidence Jonathan Bloom assumes that it was created for the Fatimid Caliphate which reigned during the first half of the 10th Century over North Africa with Kairouan as its capital. The unusual arrangement of colours is most likely inspired by Ottoman manuscripts or documents, which are often written in silver and gold on blue or purple painted vellum.
Today the manuscript is partly preserved at the National Institute of Art and Archaeology in Tunis, separate folios and fragments are kept at Chester Beatty Library, Dublin and in other private or public collections. AM/LA