Hilyah, with Four Certificates of Calligraphic Merit

Location: Ottoman Turkey Test Link

Materials: ink, gold and opaque watercolour on paper, with borders of tinted paper; mounted on board

Dimensions: 59.4 x 33.4cm

Accession Number: CAL 255

Other Notes:

This hilyah (hilye-i sherife) is in effect an examination piece, submitted by the calligrapher Mehmed Zuhdi to his master, Mehmed Salih Shukri, and three other calligraphers – Hafiz ‘Ali Reza, Mehmed Hilmi and Mehmed Recai (Raja’i). The four panels at the bottom of the piece bear their licences permitting Zuhdi to sign as a traditionally trained and accomplished calligrapher (ijazah bi-wad‘ al-kitbah). This meant that the calligrapher could sign his work using the verb katabahu (‘written by’), a term which – in the Ottoman world at least – was restricted to licensed scribes.

Although Mehmed Zuhdi has not signed this work, possibly as a courtesy to his examiners, his name – as the licencee – appears in each of the four certificates.

[For the hilyah, see CAL 459]


hilyah in muhaqqaq, thulth and naskh scripts; certificates in riqa‘


N.F. Safwat, The Art of the Pen. Calligraphy of the 14th to 20th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume V, London 1996, cat.21, pp.41–2, and cat.32, pp.56 and 59.