Safavid Qurʼan (2:11-27)


This fragment contains verses 11–21 from the second surah (chapter) of the Qurʼan, al-Baqarah (The cow), which continues with verses 21–27 on the fragment’s verso. Al-Baqarah appears immediately after the introductory chapter al-Fatihah (The opening) and, with a total of 286 verses, is the longest chapter in the Qurʼan. Its name derives from the parable of Moses and the cow mentioned in 2:67–71, in which is taught that people should not put forward excuses to justify disobedience. The surah is early Medinan and stresses faith and personal trustworthiness. The ten verses on this folio warn of the consequences of religious insincerity and duplicity. The fragment’s calligraphy and illumination are typical of Safavid Persia (1501–1722). Many Qurʼans were made for export in the southwestern city of Shiraz during the second half of the 16th century and contain similar motifs. These include gold painted flowers and vines highlighted in red and dark purple in the margins and calligraphy outlined in gold cloud bands containing orange and blue flowers. The lavish decoration on the margins sets the folio apart as one of the first folios of the Qurʼan’s second chapter. Subsequent pages, such as the folio’s verso, would not have included such lavish marginal designs. The script is rayhani, one of the six styles of cursive writing developed by the great calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab, who died in A.H. 423 (A.D. 1032). It is most closely related to naskh and muhaqqaq, though thinner and smaller in scale, and was used for texts where readability was a necessity, in particular Qurʼans or, in the Ottoman tradition, other pious works such as Du'a-namahs, or prayer manuals.

Last updated: May 7, 2015