Calligraphy Qalam: An Introduction to Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy uses interactive tools to interest new audiences in the traditional art forms of Arabic, Ottoman and Persian calligraphy.

With the growing sophistication of inlay techniques in the thirteenth century, the art of calligraphy began to play a central role on metal objects. As this elegant stem bowl indicates, inscriptions often functioned as the principal means of embellishment. Most inscriptions consisted of blessings and short prayers addressed to anonymous patrons. The inscription on this bowl is particularly notable for its human-headed letters, a highly inventive style that developed in the thirteenth century and was used exclusively on metalwork intended for use in secular settings.

Present-day Afghanistan, Herat. Early 13th century. 8.7 x 19.5 x 19.5 cm. Kufic script. Courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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