|Giotto Madonna and Child (detail) 1320 National Gallery, Washington DC|
|Unknown Spanish Artist, The Resurrection, 1420, Legion of Honor, San Francisco|
|G. dal Ponte: Madonna and Child with Angels, 1430|
Last week I was visiting the Legion of Honor with my good friend and fellow decorative artist, Bruce Thalman, and I was studying some embossed, gilt halos in Medieval and Early Renaissance paintings, as I am wont to do, when I noticed something in the border of a cloak worn by the figure of Jesus in an anonymous panel from the 15th century. "Pseudo-Kufic" I said.
"Gesundheit" Bruce replied.
A great number of paintings of the late Byzantine and Early Renaissance era used a similar design device: arabesque lettering, painted as the embroidered decoration in the hems of garments or edges of carpets. Sometimes it was copied from artifacts, and sometimes it was wholly invented. This script is referred to as Pseudo-Kufic.
|Giovanni dal Ponte: Madonna and Child with Angels (detail) 1430 Legion of Honor, San Francisco|
|Fragment of a 13th Century Qur'an in Persian Naskh and Eastern Kufi scripts, Library of Congress|
|Giotto Madonna and Child, 1320 National Gallery, Washington DC|
|Gentile da Fabriano: Adoration of the Magi (detail) 1423 Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Arabic style lettering and Mamluk patterns in the halo of the Virgin|
I still notice it all over the place.
|Paolo Veneziano: Virgin and Child (detail) 1354, Louvre Museum. Psuedo-Kufic hem embellishes a rich, oriental fabric.|
|Lorenzo di Niccolo: St Paul (detail) c. 1400 Legion of Honor, San Francisco : decorative Pseudo-Kufic script on the sleeve of the Apostle|
By the 16th century, orientalism in religious artwork had all but disappeared, as the Italian churches wanted to emphasize a more Roman context to their history.
Pseudo-Kufic at Wikipedia
and at Res Obscura