East-West: Room 12

Ali Omar Ermes Shadda

Ali Omar Ermes
Shadda 1980
Watercolour and gold on paper
635 x 615mm

Lent by the British Museum

Lion Arabic calligraphy

Image of Lion created from Arabic calligraphy
Pakistan 19th century

Victoria and Albert Museum

Ali Omar Ermes, Shadda 1980

Watercolour and gold on paper
635 x 615 mm
Lent by the British Museum

The verse inscription relates to social equality. Like the Tachiste works displayed in this room, ‘Shadda‘ depicts a gesture imbued with meaning. Although some of these Tachiste works are reminiscent of calligraphy, Arabic script is given spiritual significance in Ermes’ work, as a written expression of Qur’anic revelation.

What is the relationship between image and word in this example of calligraphy?

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East-West: Objects Between Cultures

Image of Lion created from Arabic calligraphy

Pakistan 19th century
Victoria and Albert Museum

This image of a lion originates from Lahore, Pakistan and is part of a rich tradition of zoomorphic calligraphy. This practice, developed in the sixteenth century, employs the flexibility and beauty of Arabic script to delineate living forms such as tigers, parrots, ostriches and cockerels. This is done without disobeying religious injunctions that prohibit their direct depiction.

Texts themselves might constitute verses from the Qur’an and include puns relating to the ‘word-picture’, particularly in Shia iconography. A famous example contains a prayer to Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, also known as Haidar or ‘lion’.