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god is in the details

The absolute highlight of the Persia exhibition in the Hermitage Amsterdam was its collection of medieval manuscripts and miniatures. Unfortunately, due to their fragility only half of them were on display, but this still included some awesome illustrations and manuscript pages from classic Persian poets like Nezami, Rumi, Hafez and Jami.

The image below (which doesn't do justice at all to the delicacy and detail of the original) is by Reza Abbasi, part of a two-page composition called 'Feast' (1587).

Reza Abbasi - 'Feast'

In Orhan Pamuk's novel 'My Name is Red', which is set among miniaturists in 16th century Istanbul, it is a kind of status symbol for master painters to go blind. Not only is blindness regarded as proof of a long and devoted career, slowly ruining one's eyes by pouring over pages for years on end; it is also "the farthest one can go in illustrating; it is seeing what appears out of Allah's own blackness." As one miniaturist explains it:

...illustrating was the miniaturist's search for Allah's vision of the earthly realm, and this unique perspective could only be attained through recollection after blindness descended, only after a lifetime of hard work and only after the miniaturist's eyes tired and he had expended himself. Thus, Allah's vision of His world only becomes manifest through the memory of blind miniaturists. When this image comes to the aging miniaturist, that is, when he sees the world as Allah sees it through the darkness of memory and blindness, the illustrator will have spent his lifetime training his hand so it might transfer this splendid revelation to the page.

Which, in a roundabout way, may help convey some of the divinely inspired craftsmanship and mind-boggling detail of these miniatures.

See also: Discover Islamic Art, an online museum with interesting exhibitions on calligraphy and figurative art (containing several miniatures).


the black book

This post is not about Paul Verhoeven's film but about Orhan Pamuk 's novel ' The Black Book ' ('Kara Kitap'). As a caleidoscopic, metaphysical detective novel, 'The Black Book' is something like Paul Auster's ' New York Trilogy ' m… Read the full post »

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