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Calligraphic Practice Sheet (Meşk)

Accession Number: IU Art Museum, 95.45

Artist: ʿAziz Efendi (1872-1934)

Date and Location:1348/1929

Dimensions of work: 22.2 x 25.8 cm

Dimensions of written surface: 18 x 21.5 cm

A calligrapher's training does not end with mastering the script. Well after attaining mastery calligraphers continue to practice the basics of their art. As visible in this example, the calligrapher is practicing the proportions of the thulth (sülüs) script by employing rhomboids along the letters to measure their relative sizes to one another. Such practice sheets, if executed with skill, can become collectible items.

Description:

A calligrapher must practice the very basics of calligraphy even when not engaged in creating works for the market. Meşk (or karalama) refers both to the act of practicing writing, as well as the practice sheets themselves. When executed with skill, these practice sheets can become collector's items as well. The calligraphic scripts calligraphers would practice were proportioned, and this work exemplifies the necessary proportions for each letter based on the rhombic system. This system includes back-to-back diamond shaped dots (called rhomboids) that are lined up against the diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines of the letters. They are used to measure the proportion of each letter.

This piece is a finished work executed on beige burnished paper with a gold frame pasted to a light red/pink background. The text, which includes prayers to God in Arabic, is written in black ink in thulth (sülüs) script and is signed by ʿAziz Efendi.

Two of ʿAziz Efendi's calligraphic panels are hanging in the Ulu Mosque in Bursa, Turkey. He transcribed 11 copies of the Qur'an in his lifetime, a number of hilyes (descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad), and other textual compilations. This particular work was executed during his stay in Egypt from 1922 to 1933.

An extensive collection of ʿAziz Efendi’s calligraphic works are published in Serin, Hattat Aziz Efendi, 49-116. Other examples of karalamas and meşks by various calligraphers can be found in: Edgü, Turkish Calligraphic Art, fig. 49; McWilliams and Roxburgh, Traces of the Calligrapher, 76 (fig. 51); Rado, Türk Hattatları, 221; and Serin, Hat Sanatı ve Meşhur Hattatlar, 351.