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Sayings of Pythagoras

Folio 21v from Al-Kalimah Al-Ruhaniyah wa Al-Hikmah Al-Yunaniyah (The Spiritual Word and the Greek Philosophy)

  • Accession Number:AKM283
  • Creator:Signed by the calligrapher Yaqut Al-Musta’simi, and the painter Mahmud b. Abi’l-Mahasin Al-Qashi
  • Place:Iraq
  • Dimensions:Folio: 20.6 x 15 cm
  • Date:13th–14th centuries
  • Materials and Technique:Opaque watercolour, ink, and gold on paper

This image represents the didactic interaction between master and disciple or teacher and student as a traditional mode of transmission of knowledge and learning. In this manuscript, various images of the putative sources of Islamic philosophy are placed in direct contact with students whose questions result in the Greek philosophers’ wise sayings. The teacher, in this case the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (died circa 495 BCE), is depicted as a turbaned older man talking possibly to a student. The anonymous author of this manuscript continues this didactic practice by passing its content onto the reader who becomes a participant in a venerable humanistic chain of knowledge.

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