Illustration from

'Book of Fixed Stars' (Kitāb suwar al-kawākib al-ṯābita)
by ‛Abd al-Rahman ibn ‛Umar al-Ṣūfī,
dated 1009-10 (Bodleian Library, Oxford, manuscript Marsh 144)

Page 70 - Bootes

click to see the constellation Bootes from the opposite direction

Referenced as Plate 70A on pp.200-201, Moya Catherine Carey, Painting the Stars in a Century of Change: A Thirteenth-Century Copy of Al-Ṣūfī’s Treatise on the Fixed Stars (British Library Or. 5323) (Thesis University of London, 2001).

The drapery style continued in a less adulterated form in Iran itself. So much is clear from the 1009-10AD al-Ṣūfī manuscript, and a contemporary silver dish, attributed to early eleventh century Iran or Afghanistan [1009-10 An Oxford al-Ṣūfī Bootes, early eleventh-century silver bowl- PLATES 70A, 84].108 Together, these two artefacts demonstrate the continuity of this distinct Iranian style up to the eleventh-century. Three engraved and repoussé figures resemble the 1009-10 AD Oxford illustrations in almost every detail of costume.109 This shows that the style was still current when al-Ṣūfī's treatise was illustrated for the first time, although it was soon to disappear from general decorative use. Beyond that period, the style occurs in certain al-Ṣūfī images. It has been suggested that the drapery style was exclusive to silverwork, and that al-Ṣūfī's constellation-images were similar because they had been derived from an engraved silver celestial globe. There is an early eleventh-century anecdote, which reports that the astronomer al-Ṣūfī traced out his constellation-images from the surface of a celestial globe. Al-Bīrūnī (973-1048AD) recites a story about al-Ṣūfī tracing images from a globe onto thin paper, told to him by his friend, the geometer Abū Saʿīd Ahmad b. ʿAbd al-Jalil al-Sijzī (c.951-c.1024AD).110 This anecdote is often cited as proof of the link between al-Ṣūfī's illustrations and the images on celestial globes.111 Such a link seems rather obvious even without the anecdote - which may be a misconstruction of a method which al-Ṣūfī himself describes, in his treatise on the construction and use of the astrolabe.112

108 State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, inv.S-499. Cf. also two other early Islamic silver bowls: a 658AD silver bowl from Khwarazm (British Museum OA 1975.5-16.1: PLATE 79A), and a seventh-century AD (?) silver bowl (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; reproduced in Wellesz 1959 fig.38).
109 All three figures wear knee-length v-neck robes, wrapping across the body, with a round-necked undershirt beneath. Bell-shaped gathers fall from the waistline and form along the skirt-hem, and a small gather flares out to the side on two of the figures. On the sleeves, drapery-folds collect at the wrist. The ruler's robe consists of a short skirt over a longer one. The main figure wears a Sasanian style crown.
110 Wellesz 1959 p.19. Wellesz assumes that the celestial globe used by al-Ṣūfī was made of silver, supporting this by reference to a recorded description of a large silver globe made by al-Ṣūfī for his patron ʿAdud al-Dawla, which was exhibited in Cairo in 1043AD. She also quotes Al-Bīrūnī, who wrote that large celestial globes were rare, heavy and costly, and assumes that these were "obviously made of silver" (Wellesz 1959 p.19).
111 For example, Ettinghausen and Grabar state that al-Ṣūfī's images are linear in style because they were traced from a celestial globe (Ettinghausen & Grabar 1987 p.250).
112 See Chapter Two for a list of al-Ṣūfī's works.

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