Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Koran Exhibit

We find ourselves continually returning to the small gallery inside the entrance of the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum to see the gorgeous special exhibit of the Koran. Our numerous visits are prompted, in part, by the free admission and the proximity to the Blue Mosque, a favorite destination amongst our visitors. This intimate exhibition has been extended from its original closing date of December 1st, and we have been repeatedly delighted to find it still open, allowing us a closer look at these beautiful works of art.

Stepping out of the crowds in Sultanahmet, we enter the dark gallery where instrumental music sets the tone of hushed solemnity. The illuminated Korans glitter like jewelry in spotlighted glass cases. The exhibition is in honor of the 1400th anniversary of the revelation of the Koran, and it includes pages from some of the earliest known copies. Many of the books are quite large and the selection comes from all over the world. We are particularly taken with one from Northern Africa that uses turquoise and orange adornments throughout the text. Most of the books are written on parchment, several on antelope hide. The material itself is seductively beautiful. The translucent pages of a favorite example show the ghostly calligraphy from the opposite side behind the bold, dark ink strokes of the open page. 

One of the oldest examples 

A favorite of ours from Northern Africa 

Detail of the above 

The shadow of text from the opposite side of the page makes this example a real favorite of ours.

From India

The edge design makes decorative use of the original ruler marks. 

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