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This long wooden panel is beautifully carved on one side with a central buraq figure between a pair of chinkara gazelles. The panel is further embellished with entwined scrolls and arabesques. The form and motifs are reminiscent of representations seen in Persian miniature paintings.
The 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. This miraculous night journey of the Prophet is referred to as the Mi’raj. Depictions of the buraq in flight were replicated in Persian and Indian miniature paintings, and even on textiles as far afield as the southern Philippines, where the local population is largely Moslem. See Piotrovsky & Rogers (2004, p. 254) for what is likely a 17th century Indian depiction.
The panel has a warm patina and probably has been carved from pear wood. It is plain on the reverse and has been drilled with four small holes to allow it to have been attached. It is not clear whether the panel was intended as a stand alone piece or as part of something larger. It is however a fine example of Persian carving work. Possibly it is from the Caspian region in northern Iran where wood was in ample supply and there was a thriving wood carving industry.
Fernando-Amilbangsa, L., Visual Arts of the Sulu Archipelago, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2005.
Piotrovsky, M., & J.M. Rogers, Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands, Prestel, 2004.
Rogers, J.M., The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection,Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2007.