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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.135
People
Ismail bin Ibrahim Bosnavi (calligrapher, d. 1748)
Title
Calligraphic Portrait of the Prophet Muhammad (recto); Geneaology of the Prophet Muhammad (verso) , left-hand side of a bifolio from a manuscript
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
first half of the 18th century
Period
Ottoman period
Culture
Ottoman
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/146656
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, gold and silver on paper
Dimensions
22.2 x 13.6 cm (8 3/4 x 5 3/8 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1998-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.135
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Copied in naskh script by Ismail Bosnavi, these two folios (2002.50.119 and 2002.50.135) contain a hilye (Arabic hilya), or calligraphically rendered description in Arabic of the Prophet Muhammad. The text of the hilye, attributed to Ali, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, describes both the physical qualities of the Prophet and his good character. On these pages, this classic text, placed in three roundels (two on the right page and one at the top of the left page) is followed by that of another early Muslim, Jabir ibn Samura: “I saw the Prophet Muhammad at night wearing a red garment and, as I looked at him and at the moon, he appeared more beautiful than the moon.” Beside the large roundels are twelve smaller ones: the one at upper right is inscribed Allah (God), and the rest contain the names of Muhammad (the Prophet); of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali (the rightly guided caliphs), and of the Prophet’s six companions who first accepted Islam as the true religion. Inscribed in the square enclosures that border the two pages are the ninety-nine names of the Prophet. Both pages are decorated with gilded rulings and freehand floral designs.

The back (verso) of the left-hand page records the patrilineal ancestors of the Prophet, starting with Adnan (122 BCE), arranged in the form of a tree. Adnan’s name appears at the base of the trunk and Muhammad’s at the top of the tree, within a domed frame suggestive of an Ottoman mosque. The branches of the tree terminate in ten roundels that contain the names of companions who shared Muhammad’s ancestors. Gold floral designs fill the area beneath the branches. The calligrapher’s name appears at the bottom of the page.

The calligrapher Ismail [bin Ibrahim] Bosnavi (from Bosnia) was the son of Noktaci-zade, the top finance officer (defterdar) of Eger, in Hungary. He received his training at the Ottoman court school for the gifted(enderun), in the seferli division, a teaching center for various arts. Specializing in thuluth and naskh scripts, Ismail received his calligraphic education and license from Ressam Ömer Efendi. He signed his name Ismail Muhasib, since after his training at the court school he was sent to the provinces as a bookkeeper (muhasib) of the court eunuchs. He copied a Qur?an on the order of Ahmed III (r. 1703–30) and was generously rewarded. His surviving work consists of individual calligraphic specimens and others contained in albums (muraqqa).

Originally, the hilye text was simply written on paper and carried as a protective amulet. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the renowned calligrapher Hafiz Osman transformed it into a circular calligraphic composition and included it in a copy of al-Anam, the sixth chapter of the Quran. With representational images of, for instance, Mecca and Medina, hilyes began to be included in various prayer books that contained Quranic chapters and prayers. Believed to bring succor in times of difficulty, such prayer books had widespread public appeal. Hilyes created as independent calligraphic compositions became very popular in Ottoman lands during the nineteenth century, and large-format examples were often hung on the walls of Ottoman houses.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
117 A–B

İsmaʿil bin İbrahim Bosnavi (d. 1748)
Double page with a calligraphic portrait (hilye) of the Prophet Muhammad
A. Verso: right half of the hilye
Folio: 22.2 × 13.6 cm (83/4 × 53/8 in.)
2002.50.119
B. Recto: left half of the hilye
Folio: 22.2 × 13.6 cm (83/4 × 53/8 in.)
2002.50.135
Turkey, probably Istanbul, Ottoman period, first half of the 18th century
Black ink, gold, and opaque watercolor on (now tarnished) silver-flaked, off-white paper

Copied in naskh script by İsmaʿil Bosnavi, these two folios contain a hilye (Arabic ḥilya), or calligraphically rendered description in Arabic of the Prophet Muhammad. The text of the hilye, attributed to ʿAli, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, describes both the physical qualities of the Prophet and his good character. On these pages, this classic text, placed in three roundels (two on the right page and one at the top of the left page) is followed by that of another early Muslim, Jabir ibn Samura: “I saw the Prophet Muhammad at night wearing a red garment and, as I looked at him and at the moon, he appeared more beautiful than the moon.” Beside the large roundels are twelve smaller ones: the one at upper right is inscribed Allāh (God), and the rest contain the names of Muhammad (the Prophet); of Abu Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthman, and ʿAli (the rightly guided caliphs), and of the Prophet’s six companions who first accepted Islam as the true religion. Inscribed in the square enclosures that border the two pages are the ninety-nine names of the Prophet. Both pages are decorated with gilded rulings and freehand floral designs.

The back (verso) of the left-hand page records the patrilineal ancestors of the Prophet, starting with ʿAdnan (122 BCE), arranged in the form of a tree. ʿAdnan’s name appears at the base of the trunk and Muhammad’s at the top of the tree, within a domed frame suggestive of an Ottoman mosque. The branches of the tree terminate in ten roundels that contain the names of companions who shared Muhammad’s ancestors. Gold floral designs fill the area beneath the branches. The calligrapher’s name appears at the bottom of the page.

The calligrapher İsmaʿil [bin Ibrahim] Bosnavi (from Bosnia) was the son of Noktacı-zade, the top finance officer (defterdar) of Eger, in Hungary.[1] He received his training at the Ottoman court school for the gifted(enderun), in the seferli division, a teaching center for various arts. Specializing in thuluth and naskh scripts, İsmaʿil received
his calligraphic education and license from Ressam Ömer Efendi.[2] He signed his name İsmaʿil Muhasib, since after his training at the court school he was sent to the provinces as a bookkeeper (muhasib) of the court eunuchs. He copied a Qurʾan on the order of Ahmed III (r. 1703–30) and was generously rewarded. His surviving work consists of individual calligraphic specimens and others contained in albums (muraqqaʿ ).[3]

Originally, the hilye text was simply written on paper and carried as a protective amulet. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the renowned calligrapher Hafız Osman transformed it into a circular calligraphic composition and included it in a copy of al-An ʿām, the sixth chapter of the Qurʾan. With representational images of, for instance, Mecca and Medina, hilyes began to be included in various prayer books that contained Qurʾanic chapters and prayers.[4] Believed to bring succor in times of difficulty, such prayer books had widespread public appeal.[5] Hilyes created as independent calligraphic compositions became very popular in Ottoman lands during the nineteenth century, and large-format examples were often hung on the walls of Ottoman houses.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] Müstakimzade 1928, 116–17.
[2] A coin designer: ibid., 350, 438.
[3] Huart 1908, 166–67.
[4] Derman 2004, 115; Bain 1999, 70–73; and see Gruber 2009b for a discussion of prayer books with representational images.
[5] Gruber 2009b, 117–20, 142.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 251-252, cat. 117B, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/10/2016 - 02/22/2016

The Moon: Spirit, Art, and Wonder, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, 03/09/2019 - 08/18/2019

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu