Islamic Manuscript Illumination


Tezhip, also known as “tezhib” or “tazhib,” is a traditional Islamic art form that involves the illumination and ornamentation of manuscripts, particularly Quranic and other religious texts, with intricate, hand-painted decorative designs. This art form is closely associated with Islamic calligraphy and is primarily practiced in the Islamic world, particularly in regions with a rich cultural and artistic heritage, such as Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia.

Key features of tezhip include:

  • Decorative Elements: Tezhip artists use a variety of decorative elements, including geometric patterns, floral motifs, arabesques, and intricate scrollwork. These elements are meticulously painted in vibrant colors, often using gold and other metallic pigments to enhance the richness and visual appeal of the design.
  • Manuscript Enhancement: Tezhip is primarily used to enhance the aesthetics of manuscripts, especially religious texts, by adding ornate borders, medallions, and embellishments. The aim is to make the text more visually engaging and reverential.
  • Precise Techniques: Tezhip requires a high degree of skill and precision. Artists use fine brushes and a meticulous hand to create intricate patterns and designs. The use of metallic pigments and intricate detailing makes it a time-consuming and labor-intensive art form.
  • Historical Significance: The tradition of tezhip has a long history, dating back to the Islamic Golden Age and the flourishing of Islamic manuscript production. Over the centuries, different styles and variations of tezhip have developed in various Islamic regions, each with its unique characteristics and techniques.
  • Variations: Different regions and cultures have their own styles of tezhip. For example, Ottoman Turkish tezhip, Persian tezhip, and Central Asian tezhip may have distinct patterns and color palettes, influenced by local aesthetics and traditions.
  • Use in Other Art Forms: While tezhip is most commonly associated with manuscript illumination, its decorative motifs and patterns have also been incorporated into other art forms, such as ceramics, textiles, and architectural ornamentation.
  • Contemporary Revival: In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in traditional Islamic arts, including tezhip. Artisans and artists continue to practice and teach this art form, preserving its cultural heritage and adapting it to contemporary contexts.

Tezhip is not only a decorative art but also a means of expressing reverence for religious and cultural texts. It is a testament to the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the Islamic world, and it continues to be cherished and practiced as a traditional art form to this day.

Fatma Ulusoy Work 3
Fatma Ulusoy
Fatma Ulusoy Work 1
Fatma Ulusoy



Manuscript Illumination / Tezhip
Calligraphy and Manuscript Illumination & Program Director

Educational Materials