Rare Wooden & Metal Islamic Buraq Figure
early 20th century and possibly earlier
length: 41cm, width: 28cm
This extraordinary figure is a buraq, a half-horse, half-human, winged figure from the Islamicised people of the southern Philippines, most probably Mindanao. It has been carved from several pieces of wood, with dark staining, and has various decorative hammered plates of silvered copper attached to it, as well as wire earrings in the ears.
It stands on four feet, on a flat platform. The crowned head is detachable, as are the carved wings. The wings are carved on both the upper and undersides with Islamic-inspired, Malay-like scrollwork typical of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The head is able to swivel around so that it can ‘look’ in any direction.
Such figures were decorative and were displayed among the Maranao people of Mindanao during important feasts.
buraq is not mentioned in the Koran, but according to Islamic tradition, it is supposed to have carried the Prophet Muhammad, accompanied by the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), to the sacred mosque in Mecca and later to the (then) farthest mosque, today known as the Al-aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Prophet is then said to have ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with the help of the buraq, passing through seven heavens, communing with several angels and prophets along the way, before meeting with God.
Representations of the
buraq sometimes are encountered in Persian art, most notably in Persian miniature paintings.
See a related southern Philippines example in Afable
et al (2013, p. 144).
The example here is in fine condition and is without losses. It has an obvious patina, is well proportioned, and is very sculptural.
Afable, P., et al, Philippines: an Archipelago of Exchange, ACTES SUD/ Musee du Quai Branly, 2013.
Visual Arts of the Sulu Archipelago, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2005.
private collection, UK.
Inventory no.: 4349