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The Bismillah

Asian Art

The Arabic phrase “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” (“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”) opens all but one chapter of the Qur’an. Calligraphers were the most celebrated artisans in traditional Islamic cultures: to repeat the Bismillah is to repeat the word of God; to do so in beautiful script is to glorify the word of God. In this unusual calligraphic composition, the phrase is written four times: right side up, upside down, and in the reverse of each of these. Mirror writing was a common practice in India, Turkey, and Iran in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
DATES 1875-1900
DIMENSIONS sheet: 19 5/8 x 11 13/16 in. (49.8 x 30.0 cm) image: 8 15/16 x 7 5/8 in. (22.8 x 19.4 cm)  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS Inscriptions: In Persian in black ink above on mount: "Tughra-i bismallah al-rahman al-rahim" from catalogue: Above, in upper border, in Persian, in black ink, in Nastaliq script: Tughva [in this context, a calligraphic emblem] of "In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate."
CREDIT LINE Gift of Philip P. Weisberg
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Indian. The Bismillah, 1875-1900. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, sheet: 19 5/8 x 11 13/16 in. (49.8 x 30.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Philip P. Weisberg, 59.206.8 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 59.206.8_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 59.206.8_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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