If you have been following my work for a while you’ll know that I received my apprenticeship (ijaza) in Islamic manuscript illumination earlier this year. As far as I’m aware, I am the first British person to obtain this distinction in Islamic manuscript illumination, or tezhip / tezhib, as it’s called in Turkish and Arabic. I started leaning the art of Islamic manuscript illumination under Master Illuminator, Ayten Tiryaki in Istanbul, 12 years ago. It’s been a long journey! In this post, I’d like to share some images of the completed artwork, called a hilye. If you’d like to know more about what a hilye is, and the process behind creating it, you can read about that here. I’ve also written a post about the significance of the ijaza in Islamic art here. The beautiful calligraphy in this artwork was written by my dear teacher, Ayten Tiryaki. All the illumination work (i.e. everything except the calligraphy) was painted by me.
Hope you enjoy the photos!
The circular panels are called the hilal (crescent moon), and shamsa (little sun). For a translation of the Arabic text, see here. The design for the entire hilye took just over one month of full-time work. I experimented with several different designs for each section, then tried to ensure that each individual element harmonised with the rest of the artwork. The hilye is the most challenging composition for an illuminator to design and paint, and it is an honour to be deemed ready to make one. For completion of the ijaza (apprenticeship), the hilye should showcase the artist’s skills. The illuminator therefore uses a variety of different styles and techniques in their work, seeking to achieve harmony between each element. Most importantly, the hilye reflects an artist’s dedication to their craft, and their love of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), as the hilye text is a celebration of the Prophet’s physical and moral characteristics (Peace Be Upon Him).
I hand-ground almost all of the gold used in this painting. I used moon gold for the hilal, and 24-carat shell gold for the shamsa. 18, 22, and 23 carat shell gold is used elsewhere in the design. In some places the gold is left matte, while in others, it is fully burnished.
I’ve shaded the large, gilded flowers on the outer border using a technique called halkar. Swirling rûmî patterns in lilac and moon gold interweave between the flowers. The turquoise, orange, and gold linear border is called zencerek, and is meant to look like a chain.
The hilye was on exhibition in London at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, and at Yeditepe Bienali in Istanbul earlier this year. If you would like to learn how to create this type of art, look out for my upcoming courses for 2019. I’ll announce them on my website and via email shortly. If you would like to be added to my email list to receive notifications of my upcoming workshops and exhibitions, please send me a message via the contact form on this website.
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