Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural
20 October 2016 – 15 January 2017
Dream books, talismanic charts, astrolabes and amulets: the supernatural in Islamic art during the 12-20th centuries.
As the Islamic year 1000 approached – towards the end of the 16th century in the Gregorian calendar – there was great anxiety in the east about what the future might hold and it became common practice to consult the Falnama (or book of omens) for advice on important life decisions. After performing a specific set of rituals the participant would open the manuscript to a random page where they would be presented with their answer. Usually the ‘augury seeker’ would be instructed to pray or go on a pilgrimage.
A beautifully illustrated Indian example is displayed as part of the Ashmolean’s autumn exhibition exploring the presence of the supernatural in art from the Islamic world. It is joined by around 100 other fascinating objects – from the personal horoscope of the Iranian Iskandar Sultan to a golden ‘hand of Fatima’ amulet laced with rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls – which also served as sources of guidance or protection during tumultuous periods of history.