What's The Story?
September 15, 2008 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Arabic Script ID / Translate: I have two painted pages from what appear to be old Arabic script books (though I am not sure the language). I bought these in Syria in 1992. Can anyone help ID the story from the images, and help with translation of the text? One picture would just appear to have an artist's name, while the other looks to be part of a story. I don't think the two are necessarily from the same book. What isn't clear to me is whether the images were just painted on old pages, or if the story might be related to the image.
posted by sagwalla to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
The text is Urdu, not Arabic. I wish I could read it for you, but my Urdu's terrible. It looks like the image on the second page was pasted on, because it cuts off the text. Also, the style of the images is completely different [the ones on the first page are more Indian], which makes me think they are from two different sources.
posted by asras at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2008

Can't help you with story or translation but I think they are both Mughal miniatures, perhaps from two different schools.
posted by Dr.Pill at 1:19 PM on September 15, 2008

I agree with asras in that the style of the two images is very different. The ones on the first page contain a lot of the more traditional Indian painting elements, such as the relaxed poses of the figures and especially their almond-shaped eyes. Also, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the decorative elements in each scene; even though we the viewers are looking directly at each image, the perspective has been oriented in such a way that allows us to also see the carpets from above. This was occasionally done in Mughal paintings, but it is very common in Indian miniature paintings and one of the main reasons why I'm guessing that the story might be more likely to have arisen from an Indian tradition rather than an Islamic one.

As for the second image, I unfortunately don't read Urdu or Persian, so I can't speculate as to what the text may or may not say. However, the figures here are definitely more closely linked to the Persian styles of painting that were very heavily influenced by the Far East. Hunting scenes are among the most popular types of images that you'll see in Islamic miniature paintings, so that alone doesn't really narrow things down.

Despite that, though, my guess is that this probably isn't a scene from the Shahnama (the Persian "Book of Kings"). In the Shahnama, the text was often considered to be even more important than the images, so most of the manuscripts that you'll see from the medieval Iranian period really do celebrate and emphasize the decoration of the text on each page. That really isn't the case for this particular folio. It's more like the image is the main point of focus, and the text surrounding it was merely an afterthought. Again, I realize that there's not much else I can say without being able to read the actual text, but my opinion is that we're most likely not looking at one of the major tales from Islamic literary history. I'd be very surprised if that did turn out to be what we're seeing, but it seems highly doubtful to me.
posted by sabira at 8:25 PM on September 15, 2008

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