One of the most common forms of inscription found on medieval Islamic artworks is supplicatory phrases in Arabic seeking blessings for an unidentified owner. While earlier scholarship has tended to overlook this class of inscription because it doesn’t provide direct documentary evidence about patrons, artists, sites, or dates, this study argues that there are three important reasons why supplications should be studied more closely. The first is their diagnostic utility for taxonomic classification; the second, their operational dimensions, meaning the things that they cause to happen in the encounter between be-holder and object; and the third, their possible social functions.
Margaret S. Graves, ‘Say Something Nice: Supplications on Medieval Objects, and Why They Matter’, in Sabine Schmidtke, ed., Studying the Near and Middle East at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1935-2018 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018), pp. 322–330