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Noorashikin binte Zulkifli. Picturing Legends and Knowledge of the World: Two Illustrated Folios from the Asian Civilisations Museum

This momentous event and the verses revealed underscore the centrality of writing in Islamic arts and culture, exalting the status of calligraphy and the associated arts of the book—illustration, illumination and binding—as among the most esteemed forms of Islamic art. In the early period of Islamic history (6th–10th century), the foremost task was the compilation, standardization, production and decoration of the Qur’ānic manuscript. The substitution of less costly paper for parchment opened up new vistas of what could be expressed on a page, while the advancement of rounded scripts enabled faster copying (Bloom and Blair, 2013, p. 193). These twin developments precipitated the flourishing of Islamic book arts by the medieval period (13th–17th century), and lavishly illustrated manuscripts became important vehicles for artistic expression. Among the numerous works produced, a category that readily impresses, delights and fascinates is Persian miniatures—vibrantly coloured, intricate paintings confined within the borders of the folios they adorn, jewelled windows through which one can enter the narrative realms of Persian-language literary works.

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Mar/Apr 2018
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