Dried (skeleton) tree leaves adorned with pious phrases in
beautiful Arabic calligraphy were produced in Bursa, Turkey, during the Ottoman
period. The fragility of the leaves underscores the expertise and skill
required of the
The beautifully calligraphed compositions on the four
leaves (from right to left) can be
translated 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 the
The first step was to dry and flatten the green leaf. This
was done by carefully pressing the leaf between two sheets of paper over long
periods of time.
The composition was stenciled onto the back of the
stabilized leaf. Ink, or pigment mixed with gum arabic and sealed with wax was
used. Often the calligraphy was applied in gold.
Most of the leaf tissue surrounding the inscription was
removed by soaking the leaf in an alkaline solution. The wax protected the leaf
tissue underneath, leaving the calligraphic composition solid.
Finally, precise piercing was done by hand to clean
up the composition and fully reveal the delicate leaf skeleton (veins).