The National Museum of Art of Romania
Hegira 12th century / AD 18th century
111490 / 1744
Gouache, black and red ink, colloidal gold on polished paper; cardboard, leather and silk binding
Diameter: 10.7cm (binding); Height: 7cm; Width: 7cm (cover)
Talismans are supposed to ward off evil through the power of words, signs, or images. The most efficient are believed to be the prayers quoting from the Qur’an, including the name of God or that of important religious figures. This small talismanic manuscript is rather unusual: its circular binding, provided with a cover, encloses nine leaves: one leaf is glued to the support and another to the cover, while the other seven are bound together with woven strips. On opening the manuscript one can see nine pages with blue corners and, upon turning them, seven pages with red corners. A gold medallion with religious texts in Arabic is painted on each of the nine pages with blue corners. The texts include almost all ninety-nine names of Allah (the Asma al-Husna), of which the most important is, in this case, al Khafiz (the Guarding One). The root khfz can be found in many words which make up the text of the manuscript. The ‘seven sleepers of Ephesus’ (Ashab al-Kahf) and their dog Qitmir, whose story is recounted in the Qur’an (Sura XVIII – Al Kahf / The Cave), are mentioned on the final leaf. According to the legend the seven Christian men escaped the persecution of the Roman emperor Decius by taking refuge in a cave where they slept for some three hundred years; the legend has it that those who read their story will be protected from evil as were those who found shelter in the cave. On the leaves with red corners divine names fill the compartments of a square inscribed in a circle which is made up of three registers with religious inscriptions and a larger register with occult signs; the letters were not joined together in order to enhance their magic power.
Purchased by the Museum in 2007.
Style of decoration and calligraphy
Dunca, M., Islamic Art at the National Museum of Art of Romania, Bucharest: National Museum of Art of Romania, 2015: 112, no. 53.
Mircea Dunca "Talismanic manuscript" in Explore Islamic Art Collections , Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;EPM;rm;Mus21;24;en&id=amulets_and_talismans
Prepared by: Mircea Dunca
MWNF Working Number: RO1 24