The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

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Detail photo of Lapis and Gold manuscriptLapis and Gold

Completed in September 1517, this luxurious manuscript is a triumph of illumination and calligraphy that showcases the skill of artists at the Ottoman court. At the time, the Ottoman dynasty ruled a vast territory, stretching from Egypt to Iraq, with its capital in Istanbul. Signed by both its calligrapher and illuminator—a relatively rare practice—the manuscript probably was meant for the Ottoman ruler Sultan Selim I (reigned 1512–20), perhaps to celebrate his conquest of Mamluk Egypt and Syria in 1517. Almost seventy years later, his great-granddaughter Ismihan (died 1585) dedicated the volume to the mausoleum of her father, Sultan Selim II (reigned 1566–74), and instructed that it should be recited over her father’s tomb for the eternal salvation of his soul.

Explore the manuscript below by flipping through the pages and clicking on hotspots to learn more.


Detail photo of Wondrous Words manuscriptWondrous Words

An extraordinary feat of calligraphy, this Qur’an represents a seldom-seen level of artistic perfection. Two of the period’s best-known artists, Ahmad al-Suhrawardi and Muhammad ibn Aybak, transcribed and illuminated the manuscript. The Mongol ruler Uljaytu (reigned 1304–16), a descendent of Genghis Khan, commissioned it for his monumental tomb in Sultaniyya, in northwestern Iran. After his death, reciters prayed for Uljaytu’s eternal salvation by reading the text over his tomb.

Dividing the Qur’an into thirty equal sections (in Arabic, juz,plural: ajza’) helped worshippers read the entire text over the course of a month, a practice that was especially popular during Ramadan.

Explore the manuscript by flipping through the pages and clicking on hotspots to learn more.