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About this Item


  • Siyah Mashq

Created / Published

  • 19th century


  • -  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, and 1-86-154.144.
  • -  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: 24.4 (w) x 19.3 (h) 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 or leaves. For example, 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, 70, 87, and 91).
  • -  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.
  • -  This fragment includes two individual leaves of siyah mashq pasted together onto a single sheet of paper and provided with dark blue and pink frames decorated with gold vine and leaf motifs. The fragment on the left also includes light blue horizontal frames at the top and bottom on the sheet: these appear cut out from a previous manuscript and are pasted here for preservation and aesthetic purposes. In the lower left hand corner of both calligraphic sheets appear the remnant traces of now illegible square seal impressions. Both sheets and their decorative frames are pasted onto a beautifully illuminated page with interlacing gold flowers and vines topped by three large gold flowers adorned with blue illumination.
  • -  Script: nasta'liq
  • -  1-87-154.142


  • 1 volume ; 30.9 (w) x 47.2 (h) cm


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

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2019714506

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. 19th Century. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

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

MLA citation style:

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