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Bookbinding depicting a landscape of Paradise

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16th centuryIranleather with lacquer paint49 x 33 cm

This large 16th century bookbinding, decorated with lacquer, colours, gold and silver, is one of the highlights of the MKG’s Islamic collection. It was created in a Persian court studio, and is an excellent example of the preeminent role book art played at the time. The front and back of the binding are decorated with landscapes of Paradise illustrating flowering trees, birds and fighting pairs of animals. A Chinese influence is revealed by the depiction of mythical creatures such as the phoenix, quilin and dragons, along with cloud formations with cranes. Though the application of lacquer is a technique invented in China, lacquered bookbinding was developed in Persia. The first known examples of such bindings originated in the late 15th century, such as this decorative one. This example combines manuscript illumination with the art of bookbinding. As the application of lacquer continued to be the method of decoration for the covers of Islamic manuscripts, the manuscripts turn into works of art.