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Manuscript/Mixed Material Shi'i talismanic piece

About this Item


  • Shi'i talismanic piece

Created / Published

  • 19th century


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


  • -  Qajar era Shi'i talismanic piece in Arabic about the battle of Karbalah in 61/680, written in Nasta'liq script on velum with Shi'i iconography in the Qajar style.
  • -  At the top of the page appears a triple-bayed arcade in the center of which kneels Imam 'Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, holding his double-edged sword Dhu al-Fiqar. At his side sit his young sons Hasan and Husayn. Above all three figures appear four cherubim throwing rays of light that transform into golden aureoles above their green turbans. In the upper right and left bays stands the figure of 'Abbas, the brother of Imam Husayn, who was martyred at the battle of Karbalah in 61/680. He is represented (in duplicate) as a standing old man with a white beard and white turban, who hides his hacked right arm in his left sleeve. As one of the important protagonists of the ahl al-bayt (household of the Prophet Muhammad) and revered martyrs of Karbalah, 'Abbas frequently is represented alongside 'Ali, Hasan, and Husayn in the arts of the Qajar period (see Fontana 1994 [cited below]: 51-52 and fig. 52).
  • -  Dimensions of Written Surface: 65 (w) x 70 (h) cm
  • -  For a further discussion of Shi'i iconography in the arts of the Qajar period, see: Maria Vittoria Fontana, "L'Iconografia dell'Ahl al-Bayt: Immagini di Arte Persiana dal XII al XX Secolo, Supplemento n. 78 agli Annali", vol. 5/1 (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1994), pp. 47-55 and figs. 51-61.
  • -  The piece is left unfinished, as evidenced by the empty double-bayed arcade at the bottom of the page, as well as a number of empty panels originally intended to hold inscriptions. A number of Qur'anic excerpts, such as Surat al-Kawthar (Qur'an 108), are included in panels shaped like diamonds, rectangles, and circles. Other prayers are included as well; these find refuge in God from Satan and proclaim the bismillah, alternatively written in red, gold, and blue ink. A number of roundels also contain the names of God, 'Ali, and Muhammad.
  • -  This large-scale illuminated calligraphic piece in square format appears to have been executed in Iran during the 19th century. It includes a number of details typical of Shi'i popular and devotional materials produced during the later part of the Qajar period (1785-1925). In all likelihood, it functioned as a talismanic object for an Iranian Shi'i patron.
  • -  Script: nasta'liq
  • -  ACXX


  • 1 volume ; 71.5 (w) x 75 (h) cm


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

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2019714707

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

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Chicago citation style:

Shi'i Talismanic Piece. 19th Century. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Shi'i Talismanic Piece. 19th Century. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Shi'i Talismanic Piece. 19th Century. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.