The Art of the Khelrtva

Credit: National Center of Manuscripts, 2017. “Signature of Mariam Dadiani (1783–1841) on a deed signed by Solomon II of Imereti (1772–1815) for Jruchi Monastery, 1809.”

From kheli (ხელი) “hand, handwriting” and the verbal root rtva (რთვა) “adorn, decorate” — the khelrtva (ხელრთვა) is one of the most complicated calligraphic traditions in medieval handwriting, rivaling that of the Ottoman tughra, the Japanese kaō, or the Jeli Diwani variety of Arabic script (also used by the Ottomans under Suleiman I).

The khelrtva is a type of handwritten cursive— or, just a signature — that was used by…