- Gallery Text
Translations into Arabic of scientific and philosophical treatises from the Greco-Roman world laid a critical foundation for the advances made by Muslim physicians, scientists, and mathematicians. De materia medica, on the therapeutic properties of natural substances — plants, minerals, and animals — was written about two thousand years ago by the Greek author Dioscorides. Widely translated, emended, and supplemented, the text served as the basis for writing on pharmaceuticals and herbs until the end of the sixteenth century in Byzantium, western Europe, and the Middle East.
The manuscript from which these folios come has attracted considerable scholarly attention for its inclusion of animal and human figures. Although extraneous to the text, the figures provide a view of medieval Muslims in the last decades of the Abbasid caliphate. On one page, the plant Kestron (betony) is flanked by two men — presumably a physician wearing a hooded cloak and his youthful companion shouldering a spear. The text advises on ways to prepare the plant for use as an emetic, purgative, or antidote. On the other page, two birds create a symmetrical composition on the leaves of the plant Verbascum (mullein), which, properly concocted, soothes coughs, toothaches, eye inflammations, and ulcers.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Verbascum Plants (painting with text, recto and verso), illustrated folio from a manuscript of the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides
- Other Titles
- Series/Book Title: De Materia Medica
- Work Type
- manuscript folio
- Creation Place: Middle East, Iraq, Baghdad?
- Abbasid period
- Physical Descriptions
- Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
- folio: 33 x 24 cm (13 x 9 7/16 in.)
- Meta and Paul J. Sachs, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs. old notes also have name of F.R. Martin
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
- The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
- Publication History
Laurence Binyon and J. V. S. Wilkinson, Persian Miniature Painting: Including a Critical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Miniatures Exhibited at Burlington House, January-March, 1931, exh. cat., Oxford University Press (NY) and Oxford University Press (UK) (London, England, 1933), p. 27, no. 14d
M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, Exhibition of Islamic Art, exh. cat. (San Francisco, 1937), p. 26, no. 22d
Wilson Bishai, Humanities in the Arabic-Islamic World, W.C. Brown Co. (Dubuque, Iowa, 1973), Pg. 102
Marianna Shreve Simpson, Arab and Persian Painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1980), pp. 9, 11, 15, 18-19, no. 2, ill.
Roche Products on the Market, brochure, F.Hoffman-La Roche & Co. (Cairo, November 1981)
- Exhibition History
Arab and Persian Painting, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/10/1981 - 03/09/1981
Diverse are their Hues: Animals in Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/18/1984 - 02/09/1985
Islamic Art: The Power of Pattern, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/23/1989 - 01/17/1990
Paintings for Princes: The Art of the Book in Islam, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/27/1990 - 03/25/1990
32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 05/14/2015
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at firstname.lastname@example.org