Fragment of a painting on paper. “A Harpy”, Egypt, 11th-12th century, 20.5 × 7 cm, Inv. no. 50/1977. © The David Collection, Copenhagen.

Very few illustrated manuscripts have been preserved from the period before 1200, but it would be strange if there were not illustrations in some of the books that once stood in the great libraries of Abbasid Baghdad, Umayyad Cordoba, and Fatimid Cairo.

We know that monumental painting was used in palace architecture, and Fatimid pottery shows that there were competent painters.

We cannot determine the purpose of this fragment with the little colored drawing of a harpy (a mythical creature). Perhaps it came from a manuscript. Perhaps it was used as a model by a potter or a weaver.