Calligraphic Standard from India
This calligraphic standard from India was seen in the exhibition Power and Protection, Islamic Art and the Supernatural shown at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from 20 October 2016 to 15 January 2017.
Within Islamic societies, people of all backgrounds have engaged in fascinating and sometimes controversial practices such as the casting of horoscopes and the interpretation of omens. This exhibition included objects and works of art from the 12th to the 20th centuries which have been used as sources of guidance and protection in both the private sphere and in dramatic events such as battles and royal births. Amongst the displays were dream-books, talismanic clothing and jewel-encrusted amulets.
The final section of the exhibition focused on the range of personal amulets and talismans created to harness and channel protective and healing powers. Miniature Qur’ans with pages just a couple of centimetres wide which could be worn on a chain or carried in a pocket, as well as contemporary amulets from the shrine of Eyüp in Istanbul were on show with this calligraphic standard from India. This standard, or alam, would have been used in religious processions and is made of perforated gilt copper. The ornamental calligraphy arranged within a frame in the form of a bird of prey is the Shia Muslim prayer, the Nad-i-‘Ali, or ‘Call to Ali’, praising the son-in-law of the Prophet. The standard is thought to have been made in Delhi in the 17th century and was bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1913 from Imre Schwaiger, the famous Hungarian dealer who lived in the city, for £8.
Calligraphic standard from India, 17th-century, perforated gilt copper, 38 × 20.3 cm © Victoria and Albert Museum, London