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Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on parchment
Sheet: 23.7 x 33.7 cm (9 5/16 x 13 1/4 in.); Text area: 18.5 x 25 cm (7 5/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1933.493.a
The sacred book of Islam, the Koran is believed by Muslims to be a literal transcription of the word of God, spoken in Arabic to the Prophet Muhammad (died 632). In order to convey the importance of the divine word, Arabic calligraphy—sometimes highly elaborate and embellished with gold—was used to create copies of the Koran.
This folio was written in the oldest style of Arabic calligraphy, called Kufic script, used in earliest surviving copies of the Koran. The wide format of the page is well suited to this style of Kufic that has elongated, horizontal strokes. Vowels are indicated by red dots, and the triangles of gold dots mark the end of each verse.
The text on the recto recounts an argument between God and Lucifer. Proud Lucifer declares himself superior to humans because he was formed from fire, while humans were molded from clay. In the verses on the verso, God casts Lucifer out of heaven as punishment for his pride.
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