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Arts of Africa

At the MFAH, art from the diverse continent of Africa spans ancient to contemporary times and includes the world's most significant collection of gold objects: the Glassell Collection of African Gold.

Qur’an Manuscript in Maghribi Script
Bound parchment

11 1/4 x 11 3/8 x 2 3/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Honorable and Mrs. Hushang Ansary, with additional funds provided by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund and the Alice Pratt Brown Museum Fund

Arts of Africa

This superb Qur'an—the holy book of Islam—displays an elaborate program of illumination, a technique that employs gold and silver to decorate the opening and closing pages of the book and to highlight the internal divisions of the text.

Penned on parchment, which was a favored medium for Qur'anic manuscripts made in the western Islamic world, this example is written in Maghribi script, the distinctive style of the North African manuscript production of the 13th through 15th century.

The word qur'an literally means recitation, and the Qur'an was compiled in the years following the death in 632 AD of the prophet Muhammad. The text gathers the revelations that Muhammad received directly from God through the angel Gabriel. Through the Qur'an, Arabic became the main language of the Islamic world, and calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, achieved the status of the highest form of visual expression.