Qur'anic Phrase In Composition Forming Part Of Qur'an 28:88
recto © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unknown Artist
Qur'anic Phrase in Composition Forming Part of Qur'an 28:88
Work Type
early 19th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Qajar period
Physical Descriptions
Ink, color and gold on paper
36.83 x 24.77 cm (14 1/2 x 9 3/4 in.)
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of John Goelet
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

Label Text: The Enlightened Eye: Gifts from John Goelet, written 2000
Calligraphy Containing Qur'anic Verses
Iran, Qajar period, early 19th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper, varnished
Gift of John Goelet, 1958.193

Letters that form the Qur'anic passage, "Everything will perish save His countenance" (28:88) are arranged in the form of a hand, probably the "Hand of Fatima," a symbol believed to ward off the evil eye. Above this monogram is a pointed trefoil, like the tip of an arrow, intended for the same symbolic purpose. The overall design appears in a geometric frame, the top of which resembles a mosque's mihrab, the niche indicating the direction of Mecca and the orientation of prayer. Works of calligraphy arranged in figurative compositions such as this came into vogue in the Persianate world of the early nineteenth century.
On tan-colored paper, the background consists of symmetrically arranged foliate motifs rendered in gold with touches of color. The lines that form the monogram and the spear are clearly distinguished from the background not only by their geometric shapes but also by the use of floral motifs on black. Some of the calligraphic lines represent more than one letter. [draft]

Label Text: Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book, written 1993
Calligraphic Tour de Force
Incorporating the words "Everything perishes save His face" (Koran 28:88)
Iran, Qajar, early 19th century
Ink, gold, and opaque watercolor on paper
Anonymous gift

Publication History

40 Years On... Donations by John Goelet: Sculpture, Paintings and Drawings, Miniatures and Calligraphy, Tankas and Mandala, M. T. Train / Scala Books (New York, NY, 2000), page 149, 234

Exhibition History

Islamic Art: Drawings, Calligraphies and Objects, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/29/1983 - 09/25/1983

Line and Space: Calligraphies from Medieval Islam, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/02/1984 - 05/28/1984

Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/25/1993 - 01/30/1994

The Enlightened Eye: Gifts from John Goelet, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/12/2000 - 05/07/2000

Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice, c. 1600–1900, Michael C. Carlos Museum of Art, Atlanta, 08/28/2010 - 12/05/2010; Asia Society, New York, 10/07/2008 - 02/08/2009; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 11/03/2007 - 02/03/2008

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted