Scenes from a Noh play.

This painted scroll of Scenes from a Noh Play (Manzai no Tsutsumi emaki) dates to the Edo period and was created during the middle of the seventeenth century. Noh is a fourteenth-century form of theatre originally patronised by Japan’s samurai warrior class. It became a court en

A Sense of Identity | Arts | Theatre


Jahangir celebrates the Hindu festival of Holi from the Minto Album.

This folio is from an album compiled for the Mughal emperors Jahangir (r. 1605-27) and Shah Jahan (r. 1627-58) between about 1612 and 1640. In his memoirs, Jahangir, whose mother was Hindu, describes Holi, the exuberant Hindu festival: ‘Thursday is the Holi, which in their

A Sense of Place | Manners and customs | Religion


Ishaq Ibn Hunayn's Arabic translation of Euclid's Elementa.

Western knowledge of many works of the greatest thinkers of ancient Greece, including Euclid, was lost during the so-called Dark Ages (the period from about the late fifth century AD to the year 1000). However, between the late eighth century and the tenth centuries, most o

A Sense of Freedom | Mathematics | Geometry


Illuminated opening from a Qur'an.

This Qur'an is one of the great treasures of the Chester Beatty Library. It is important on a number of counts, but especially as it is a rare example of the work of Ibn al-Bawwab (d. 1022), one of three great medieval masters of Islamic calligraphy. Ibn al-Bawwab is espe

A Sense of Identity | Qur'an | Islamic calligraphy


Illuminated heading for Chapter 32 from a Qur'an.

Usually, an illuminated heading marks the beginning of each of the 114 chapters of the Qur'an. This one marks the start of chapter 32, which bears the title al-Sajda (The Prostration) and which deals with the mysteries of Creation, Time and the Final End.

A Sense of Identity | Qur'an | Creation (Islam)


The training of elephants from court amusements and ceremonies.

Scenes of royal life were a popular subject for depiction in parabaik folding books at the Burmese court of Mandalay during the late nineteenth century. These openings show the training of hunting elephants and other mounted exercises.

A Sense of Identity | Courts and courtiers | Animals


Virgin and Child from The Coëtivy Book of Hours 

This magnificent Book of Hours (Use of Paris) was executed for Prigent de Coëtivy (1400-50), who was Admiral of France and, next to the Duc de Berry, one of the greatest book-collectors of the period. The 148 miniatures are mainly attributed to the 'Master of the Duke of Be

A Sense of Freedom | Coëtivy, Prignet de, 1400-1450 | Illumination of books and manuscripts


Historiated initial 'I' from the Walsingham Bible.

The historiated initial ‘I’ marks the beginning of the Book of Genesis: In Principio creavit Deus caelum et terram, or ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. Each line of text is written in decreasing size, a decorative technique known as diminuendo. The

A Sense of Place | Creation | Biblical cosmology


Oriole on a bridge in the moonlight from The Tale of Oriole.

In twenty scenes, this painted handscroll tells the Tale of Oriole (Yingying zhuan), one of the the most famous love stories in Chinese literature. Set in the late eighth century, it centers around the romance of Oriole (Yingying), the beautiful seventeen-year old daughter

A Sense of Freedom | Arts | Love stories