muhammad ibn ahmad al-izmiri - A Hydraulic Device, 1354

muhammad ibn ahmad al-izmiri

Leaf from a copy of the Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices: A Hydraulic Device, 1354

Ink and color on paper, 34 x 23 cm (13 3/8 x 9 1/16 in.) sheet


Object details

Accession number



  • Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Al-izmiri - primary
  • Al-jazari (1136 - 1206) - author


Possibly in the collection of Mahmut I (1696-1754), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, about 1470. (as part of a manuscript now in the Suleymaniye Library, Istanbul, Ayasofya no. 3606)
Collection of the Ayasofya Library, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul in about 1740.
Collection of the Suleymaniye Library, Istanbul in 1968.
First documented by the French Orientalist Baron Bernard Carra de Vaux (1867-1953) in 1891.
Collection of the Swedish collector, scholar, and dealer Fredrik R. Martin (1868-1933), about 1895. (Gardner leaves removed by Martin from the manuscript before August 1902)
Collection of German-American medievalist Rudolf Meyer-Riefstahl (1880-1936), Paris by 1914.
Loaned by Meyer-Riefstahl to the Berlin Photographic Company's New York office for their Exhibition of Muhammadan Miniature Painting on 22 February 1914.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the Berlin Photographic Company, New York for $1,000 on 24 February 1914, through the American art historian Bernard Berenson (1865-1959) and possibly the art collector and design theorist Denman Waldo Ross (1853-1935).


Bernard Carra de Vaux. "Notice sur deux manuscrits arabes." Journal asiatique (1891), pp. 295-314, no. 2
Bernard Carra de Vaux. "Notice sur un manuscrit traitant de machines attribuées à Heron, Philon et Archimède." Bibliotheca Mathematica (1900), n.p. (on the parent manuscript; as illustrated in Persian and Indian fashion)
Edgard Blochet. "Peintures de manuscrits arabes à types byzantins." Revue Archéologique (1907), pp. 210-223. (Egypto-Arabic, 1351-1354; as detached leaves from an arabic translation of Philo)
Josef von Karabacek. Zur orientalischen Altertumskunde. 1, Saracenische Wappen (Vienna, 1908), p. 22. (as from the time of Saladin)
Max van Berchem et al. Amida: materiaux pour l'épigraphie et l'histoire Musulmanes du Diyar-Bekr (Heidelberg, 1910), pp. 79-81, 95-96. (as early 13th century)
Fredrik Robert Martin. The Miniature Paintings and Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey (London, 1912), pp. 7, 10-12, (as Mesopotamian, Ayyubid period, last years of the 12th century)
Georges Mareau et al. Miniatures persanes. Exh. cat. (Paris: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1912), pp. 49-50, 89, 91, pl. 2. (illustrates museum no. P19w52 and other leaves not in the Gardner collection; the text as "an Arabic translation of the original Greek Treatise on Hyraulic Automata by Philo of Byzantinum"; as probably Syrian, Egyptian, or Mesopatamian; the date as disputed by Martin and Blouchet, 1174-1185 or 1351-1353 respectively)
Claude Anet. "Exhibition of Persian Miniatures at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris-I." Burlington Magazine (1912), p. 16. (as Egyptian, second half of the 14th century)
Seymour de Ricci. Catalogue d'une collection de miniatures gothiques et persanes appartenant a Léonce Rosenberg (Paris, 1913), nos. 103-105. (as from Cairo, 1185)
Claude Anet et al. "Dr. F.R. Martin and Oriental Painting: 'Le Traité des Automates.'" Burlington Magazine (1913), pp. 49-51. (as Egyptian, 1354 or School of Mesopotamia, 1185)
Berlin Photographic Co. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Muhammadan Miniature Painting (New York, 22 Febuary 1914), p. 11, lot 1. (as "Automaton," Egypt, end of the 12th century)
Isabella Stewart Gardner. Catalogue of Muhammadan Paintings owned by Isabella Stewart Gardner. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1915), pp. 1-2, no. 2. (as "Cog wheel worked by water;" from the "book on Automatic Appliances" found in the library of Santa Sophia, 1180-1185, Ortuqid dynasty, Cairo)
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. "Early Arabic and Persian Paintings: Mainly Recent Acquisitions." Bulletin: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Aug. 1923), p. 50. (as Mesopotamian, probably 13th century)
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. The Treatise of al-Jazari on Automata: Leaves from a Manuscript of the Kitab Fi Ma'Arifat Al-Hiyal al Handasiya in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Elsewhere (Boston, 1924), p. 1. (as 13th century, perhaps the original manuscript produced by Al-Jazari)
K.A.C. Creswell. "Dr. R.F. Martin's Treatise on Automata." Yearbook of Oriental Art and Culture (1925), pp. 33-40. (on pendant leaves then in the Martin collection, as Egyptian, middle of the 14th century)
Ernst Grube. Muslim Miniature Painting (Venice, 1926), p. 9.
Rudolf M. Riefstahl. "The Date and Provenance of the Automata Miniatures." The Art Bulletin (1929), pp. 206-215, n1. (as probably Egyptian, 1354)
L.A. Mayer. "Zum Titelblatt der Automata Miniaturen." Orientalistische Literaturzeitung (1932), pp. 165-66. (on the parent manuscript; as Egyptian, Mamluk in style, about 1350)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 167-68, no. 2. (as "Automaton;" Egyptian, 1354)
Harold W. Glidden. "A Note on the Automata of Al-Djazari." Ars Islamica (1936), pp. 115-16. (on the parent manuscript, as Egyptian, by "al-Jaziri," not al-Jazari)
Eric Schroeder. Persian Miniatures in the Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1942), pp. 22. (as February-March 1354, the parent manuscript housed in Topkapi Saray Musezi, no. 3606 by scribe Muhammad ibn Ahmad or another artist from Cairo)
George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969) pp. 148-49. (as "Automata;" Persian, probably 13th century)
Walter B. Denny. "Some Islamic Objects in the Gardner Museum." Fenway Court (1971), pp. 4-6, fig. 1. (as "An hydraulic device," Egyptian or Syrian, about 1354)
Yasuko Horioka et al. Oriental and Islamic Art: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1975), pp. 106-07, no. 46. (as Egyptian, Cairo?, 1354)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), p. 506-07, 509-14.
Alan Chong and Noriko Murai. Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009), p. 36.
Benedict Cuddon. "A Field Pioneered by Amateurs: The Collecting and Display of Islamic Art in Early Twentieth-Century Boston." Muqarnas (2013), pp. 17-18.

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