Discover the Qur’an as a source of artistic inspiration and expression in this selection of works on paper.
The Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims, lies at the heart of Islam’s religious experience as much as at the root of its artistic inspiration. Indeed, it is in order to preserve and disseminate the word of God that artistic practices such as Islamic calligraphy and book illumination were first developed.
As the Prophet Muhammad (died AD 632) observed, ‘Beautiful writing clarifies the truth.’ This thought rests on the belief that virtuous ideas can only be properly expressed through attractive forms. In the Islamic world, however, these are not simply the product of technical training, but a reflection of the artist’s innermost qualities and a lasting trace of his morals. A pure hand is truly the mirror of a pure soul.
Al-Qur’an al-Karim: Sacred Verses, Beautiful Pages explores the spiritual and creative forces that converge in the act of copying the noblest of Islamic texts. The exhibition brings together pages from dispersed Qur’ans, a variety of Qur’anic book formats, and contemporary interpretations of Qur’anic verses from the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Libraries, and Christopher T. Gandy. Through these examples, the viewer can explore the material and stylistic features of the Qur’an, consider the artistic practices and spiritual implications leading to its reproduction, and witness the ingenious responses offered by Muslim artists to specific needs in various times and places.
Eastern Art Online presents an extended version of this exhibition, providing additional information and items, and enabling visitors to browse, search and view high-quality zoomable images of the objects on display in the Ashmolean's Eastern Art Paintings Gallery.