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About this Item


  • Siyah Mashq

Created / Published

  • 17th-19th centuries


  • -  Calligraphy, Arabic
  • -  Calligraphy, Persian
  • -  Manuscripts, Persian--Washington (D.C.)
  • -  Iran
  • -  Arabic script calligraphy
  • -  Illuminated Islamic manuscripts
  • -  Islamic calligraphy
  • -  Islamic manuscripts
  • -  Nasta'liq
  • -  Shikastah


  • -  Qajar era Siyah Mashq Calligraphy based on Nasta'liq script 19th cent. Shekastah (Broken) Script.
  • -  A number of other siyah mashq sheets are held in the Library of Congress. See in particular 1-84-154.44, 1-87-154.45, 1-84-154.46, 1-85-154.88, 1-87-154.142.
  • -  A number of siyah mashq sheets executed at the turn of the 17th century by the great Iranian master of nasta'liq script, 'Imad al-Hasani (d. 1024/1615), were decorated in gold, preserved in albums (muraqqa'at), and provided with illumination by Muhammad Hadi ca. 1160-1172/1747-1759 (Akimushkin 1996: 65, 87, and 91). These sheets bear a striking resemblance to this fragment, especially in the interlacing gold flower and leaf motif used on the sheet's blue border (Akimushkin 1996: 70). It is possible that the Library of Congress' siyah mashq sheet was executed by 'Imad al-Hasani or one of his contemporaries or followers.
  • -  As an established genre, practice sheets abided to certain rules of formal compositions, largely guided by rhythm and repetition (Safwat 1996, 32). Although siyah mashq sheets survive from ca. 1600, they seem to have been a particularly popular genre during the second half of the 19th century, i.e., during the artistic revival spearheaded by the Qajar ruler Nasir al-Din Shah, who reigned 1848-1896 (Mehdi Zadeh 1369/1950: 44-45 and 54-55; and Diba and Ekhtiar 1998: 239-41).
  • -  Dimensions of Written Surface: 29.1 (h) x 16.6 (w) cm
  • -  These sheets -- known as siyah mashq (lit. black practice) in Persian -- were entirely covered with writing as a means to practice calligraphy and conserve paper. In time, they became collectible items and thus were signed and dated (this fragment, however, does not appear signed or dated). Many fragments such as this one were provided with a variety of decorative borders and pasted to sheets ornamented with plants or flowers painted in gold. Even the calligraphic exercise itself appears on a background of painted clouds decorated with illuminated flowers.
  • -  This calligraphic practice sheet includes a number of diagonal words and letters used in combinations facing upwards and downwards on the folio. The common Persian cursive script nasta'liq is favored here over the more "broken" shikastah script.
  • -  Script: nasta'liq
  • -  1-86-154.144


  • 1 volume ; 47.5 (h) x 31.7 (w) cm


  • Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2019714505

Online Format

  • pdf
  • image

Additional Metadata Formats

IIIF Presentation Manifest

Rights & Access

The contents of the Library of Congress Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Calligraphy are in the public domain or have no known copyright restrictions and are free to use and reuse.

Credit Line: Library of Congress, African and Middle East Division, Near East Section Persian Manuscript Collection

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Siyah Mashq. 17th-19th Centuries. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Siyah Mashq. 17th-19th Centuries. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Siyah Mashq. 17th-19th Centuries. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.