God is the Light of the heavens and the earth

Gold leaf and historical pigments on indigo-dyed parchment. 50x40cm framed. Made in the style of the Blue Qur’an, late 10th c. AD.

Date13 March 2022

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونِةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُّورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. God guides to His light whom He wills. And God presents examples for the people, and God is Knowing of all things. (Surat al-Nur 24:35)

Written with gold leaf on indigo-dyed parchment, with silver leaf ornaments that today we only see tarnished, the Blue Qur’an was an irresistible example to emulate. The original has 15 lines of text, making it suitable for a longish paragraph, so I matched it up with Ayat el-Nur, the Verse of Light.

To simply paint the paper blue would never do. A proper recreation required going all the way, so I went through the full process of dyeing paper and parchment with genuine indigo, and used blue parchment for the final piece .

While shell gold is usually the norm in Islamic manuscripts, the Blue Qur’an looks very much like it was made with gold leaf, so that’s what I did, using gum ammoniac as mordant. This natural, historical medium works wonderfully but needs to be breathed on before applying gold leaf, so gilding the text alone took several days.

Once all the gold is in place, the letters are defined and outlined with indigo pigment.

To avoid the fate of their tarnished silver ancestors, the medallions were gilded with white gold, and details added in lac for a transparent red and lapis for blue.

Parchment does cockle a bit, it’s in the nature of the material, but this helps to show off the glint of the gold, from whatever angle you’re looking at it.

A penny for your thoughts...