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Dried (skeleton) tree leaves adorned with pious phrases inbeautiful Arabic calligraphy were produced in Bursa, Turkey, during the Ottomanperiod. The fragility of the leaves underscores the expertise and skillrequired of theartist.
The beautifully calligraphed compositions on the fourleaves (from right to left) can betranslated as follows:
Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him",
Umar, may God be pleased with him",
Uthman, may God be pleased with him", and
Ali, may God be pleased with him"
The tree leaves most frequently used were ivy, fig,mulberry, and horse chestnut. But the most popular was the hardy leaf of thetobacco plant.
The first step was to dry and flatten the green leaf. Thiswas done by carefully pressing the leaf between two sheets of paper over longperiods of time.
The composition was stenciled onto the back of thestabilized leaf. Ink, or pigment mixed with gum arabic and sealed with wax wasused. Often the calligraphy was applied in gold.
Most of the leaf tissue surrounding the inscription wasremoved by soaking the leaf in an alkaline solution. The wax protected the leaftissue underneath, leaving the calligraphic composition solid.
Finally, precise piercing was done by hand to cleanup the composition and fully reveal the delicate leaf skeleton (veins).
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