© Khalili Family Trust

Name of Object:

Talismanic banner


London, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Khalili Family Trust – Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art


AD 17th century

Type of object:

Textile; banner; talismanic banner; magic squares

Museum Inventory Number:

TXT 233

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Black and red ink, coloured pigments and silver on plain cotton; old repairs in green-dyed cotton


340 x 277cm

Period / Dynasty:

India, Deccan


India, Deccan


The banner combines Qur’anic verses, invocations and religious sayings with numeric magic squares. The main inscription band, written in a script with elements of thuluth and naskhi, is sura al-Fath (XLVIII) verses 1–16, in part. It is framed along the edges of the banner by a series of lobed medallions reserved on a silver ground and enclosing magic squares. At the are a large 101x101 magic squareand a 41x41 square. The remaining spaces are filled by calligraphic cartouches, symmetrically arranged along the vertical axis. Their texts include the shahada; the basmala; Qur’nic verses; some of the asma’ al-husna (‘the Names of God’); the names of the Prophet Muhammad and ‘Ali (arranged so as to suggest a human face); and the so-called nadi ‘Aliyyan (‘Call upon ‘Ali’) quatrain. The arrangement of the cartouches in the lower half of the banner is reminiscent of a standard top (‘alam). Also represented is dhu’l-faqar, the bifurcated sword given by the Prophet Muhammad to ‘Ali.

How provenance was established:

A number of the calligraphic cartouches on the banner have parallels in both Ottoman and Indian art, but the combination seen here, coupled with the colours used and the script of the main inscription, point to a Deccani origin.

Selected bibliography:

Leoni, F., Power and Protection. Islamic Art and the Supernatural (exhibition catalogue), Oxford ,2016, pp.66–7.
Nassar, N., in Textiles, Carpets and Costumes, London: The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume 14, Part Two, 2018. [In preparation / forthcoming].
Tezcan, H., Tılsımlı Gömlekler, Istanbul, 2011: no.54, p.184 (comparative item).

Citation of this web page:

Nahla Nassar "Talismanic banner" in Explore Islamic Art Collections , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;EPM;uk;Mus21;41;en&id=amulets_and_talismans

Prepared by: Nahla Nassar

MWNF Working Number: UK1 41