2012-2017: Kalila wa Dimna

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Kalila wa Dimna Egypt or Syria, c. 1222 BNF (arabe 3465, fol 21r)

From 2012 to 2017, I participated in a research program led by the UMR 8167 in association with the Bibliotheque nationale de France, dedicated to illustrated manuscripts of Kalila wa Dimna produced in the Islamic world. Born in India and passed to Persia, Kalila wa Dimna is a collection of animal fables which has met a great success in the Islamic world. Translated in Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa during the 8th century, the text has known several Persian and Turkish adaptations between the 12th and the 16th centuries. It is one of most illustrated literary texts, a hundred copies in all three languages ​​are currently known around the globe. The text has also inspired Jean de la Fontaine for his Fables, as well as other texts produced in the Christian world.

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Among my activities within the project, I took part to a workshop in November 2013, holding a discussion between specialists on opened research topics. I presented an original research on forms and functions of vegetal designs in illustrated Kalila wa Dimna manuscripts.

As well, I co-organized an exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe: Paroles de bêtes (à l’usage des Princes), Les Fables de Kalila wa Dimna (15th Sept. 2015 -3rd Jan. 2016). Were presented the manuscripts in the Bibliotheque nationale, as well as numerous items related to the text and artistic practices. On this subject, I wrote an article on the BNF digital platform Gallica (In French).

To prepare the exhibition, I focused on later Indian copies of Kalila wa Dimna, as well as the painter Imam Bakhsh Lahori, a Punjabi painter who illustrated a copy of the Fables of La Fontaine, a literally text largely inspired by Kalila wa Dimna.