Folio from an Arabic translation of De Materia Medica by Dioscorides (ca. 40-90 C.E.); verso: Two physicians preparing medicine; recto: text

Detached folio from an Arabic translation of De materia medica by Pedanius Dioscorides; text: Arabic in black and red naskh script; recto: text, one column, 13 lines; verso: illustration and text, Two physicians preparing medicine, one column, 7 lines; one of a group of 9 folios.

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Calligrapher: Abdallah ibn al-Fadl
Author: Pedanius Dioscorides (died 90 CE)
Historical period(s)
Abbasid period, 1224 (621 A.H.)
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W: 24.6 x 33.1 cm (9 11/16 x 13 1/16 in)
Iraq, Probably Baghdad
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Manuscript folio

Abbasid period (750 - 1258), De Materia Medica, Iraq, medicine, naskh script

Fredrik Robert Martin (1868-1933) [1]

To 1932
H. Sevadjian, Paris to 1932 [2]

From 1932
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from H. Sevadjian, Paris in 1932 through K. Minassian [3]


[1] Object file, undated folder sheet note. See also Martin, F.R. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India and Turkey, London, 1912; vol. I.

[2] Object file, undated folder sheet note. See also Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

[3] See note 2.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

H. Sevadjian
Fredrik Robert Martin 1868-1933


Detached folio from an Arabic translation of De materia medica by Pedanius Dioscorides; text: Arabic in black and red naskh script; recto: text, one column, 13 lines; verso: illustration and text, Two physicians preparing medicine, one column, 7 lines; one of a group of 9 folios.


One of the earliest extant, illustrated texts from the Islamic world is the Arabic translation of the Materia Medica. It was compiled by the Greek physician Dioscorides, a soldier in the Roman army who studied the flora of Asia Minor while in service. Divided into five sections, the text describes the medicinal uses of some five hundred plants, and it became the foundation for pharmacology in the Near East and later in medieval Europe.

Arabic copies of the Materia Medica are particularly noteworthy for their illustrations. In the absence of detailed physical descriptions of the plants, artists added their own pictorial interpretations. This image, originally part of a thirteenth-century copy of the text, depicts a physician and his attendant in an abstracted interior with contemporary furnishings and props. The composition relates to a passage about the preparation of an antidote for the sting of a venomous spider.

Published References
  • Friedrich Paul Theodor Sarre, Fredrik Robert Martin. Die Ausstellung von Meisterwerken Muhammedanischer Kunst in Muchen, 1910. 3 vols., Munich. pls. 4, 5.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Ernst Kuhnel. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. 6 vols., London and New York, 1938 - 1939. vol. 3: pp. 1970, 2484.
  • Fredrik Robert Martin. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century. 2 vols., London. vol. 1: pl. B, 5-7, vol. 2: pl. 7a.
  • Georges Marteau, Henri Vever. Miniatures Persanes: tirees des collections de M.M. Henry d'Allemagne, Claude Anet, Henri Aubrey... 2 vols., Paris, June-October 1912. vol. 1: pls. 1, 38.
  • Ernst Kuhnel. Islamische Kleinkunst: ein Handbuch fur Sammler and Liebhaber. Bibliothek fur Kunst, 2nd ed. Braunschweig, Germany. opp. p. 40, pl. 2.
  • Volkmar Enderlein. Islamische Kunst. Dresden. fig. 115.
  • Eva Baer. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany. fig. 2.
  • Eustache de Lorey. La Peinture Musulmane: L'Ecole de Bagdad. Paris. p. 9, fig. 11.
  • David James. Arab Painting, 368 A.H./969 A.D.-567 A.H/1171 A.D. Bombay, June 1976. pp. 11-50, fig. 6.
  • Kurt Holter. Die Islamischen Miniaturhandschriften vor 1350. Leipzig. pp. 11-12.
  • Annette Hagedorn. Islamic Art. Germany. p. 12.
  • H. Buchtal. Early Islamic Miniatures from Baghdad. vol. 5 Baltimore. pp. 16-31, fig. 31.
  • Laurence Binyon, J.V.S. Wilkinson, Basil Gray. Persian Miniature Painting: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Miniatures Exhibited at Burlington House, January-March 1931. Exh. cat. Oxford, January - March 1931. p. 27, pl. 14a.
  • La medecine au temps des califes a l'ombre d'Avicenne: Exposition presentee du 18 novembre 1996 au 2 mars 1997. Exh. cat. Paris, November 18, 1996 - March 2, 1997. p. 46.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Islamic Art in the Freer Gallery. vol. 3, no. 3, Autumn 1985. pp. 57-58, fig. 1.
  • Basil Gray. Persian Miniatures. vol. 9, no. 3 London, February 1935. pp. 58, 88-91.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Art of the Arab World. Exh. cat. Washington, 1975. cat. 25, p. 60.
  • Philipp Walter Schulz. Die Persisch-Islamische Miniaturmalerei: Ein Beitrag zur Kunstgeschichte Irans. 2 vols, Leipzig. pp. 64, 159, 199, pl. 5.
  • Ivan Stchoukine. La Peinture Iranienne sous les Derniers Abbasides et les Ilkhans. Bruges. p. 67.
  • Dietrich Brandenburg. Islamic Miniature Painting in Medical Manuscripts., 2nd ed. Basel. p. 67.
  • Sir Thomas W. Arnold. Painting in Islam: A Study of the Place of Pictoral Art in Muslim Culture. Oxford. p. 80.
  • Henry Corbin, Paul Pelliot, Eustache de Lorey. Les Arts de l'Iran, l'ancienne Perse, et Bagdad. Paris. p. 107 ff.
  • Ivan Stchoukine. Un Manuscript du Traite d'al-Jazari, sur les Automates du VII siecle de l'Hegire. vol. 6, no. 11 Paris, March 1934. p. 140.
  • Howard Turner. Science in Medieval Islam: An Illustrated Introduction., 1st ed. Austin, 1995-1997. p. 150.
  • Ernst Diez. Die Kunst der Islamischen Volker. Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaft Berlin. p. 171, fig. 221.
  • M.S. Dimand. Dated Specimens of Mohammedan Art: part II. vol. 1, no. 2 New York, May 1929. pp. 208-209, fig. 1.
  • Florence E. Day. Mesopotamian Manuscripts of Dioscorides. vol. 8, no. 9 New York, May 1950. p. 279.
  • Albert S. Lyons, R. Joseph Petrucelli II. Medicine: An Ilustrated History. New York. p. 305.
  • Ciba Symposia. vol. 6, nos. 5-6 Summit, New Jersey, August/September 1944. p. 1861.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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