a visual defense of alchemy in an islamic manuscript of the mongol period 35 An intriguing double-page painting (fig. 1) appears near the beginning of a manuscript made in 1339 that contains a collection of Arabic and Persian al- chemical texts. 1 The odd formal features of the paint- ing, as well as the elusive inscriptions on it, confront the viewer with visual and textual puzzles. This pa- per seeks to explain these puzzles in terms of the intellectual and artistic traditions that were familiar to the anonymous painter and calligrapher who made the manuscript, and in terms of the purpose of the painting. The painter and calligrapher combined broad cross-cultural traditions with other references that were specific to the cultural context in which the painting was made: the Islamic lands under Mon- gol rule. This combination conveyed the purpose of the painting, which, I argue below, was to persuade the viewer of the legitimacy of alchemy. When viewed in isolation, the painting initially seems very strange. The formal relationship between the two pages on which it appears is puzzling. Each side is framed by a different architectural device: the right side by a pointed arch and the
Muqarnas Online – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2003
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