Purple, whether in Ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, was the color of royalty because the coloring process for purple was difficult, required time and was expensive. Yet, Virtosu labels his painting “Ruqayyah Bint Muhammad,” and, with stubborn, not harsh, brush strokes, names his oil painting on a decidedly non-royal figure. Ruqayyah. The Prophet Muhammad ’s daughter. As she died when she was barely 23, she is generally, forgotten by Moslem historians. Certainly, she grew up in luxury as her mother, Khadija, was one of the richest and most successful merchants in the Arabian Peninsula. Post-Islam, Khadija donated all her money to fund the peaceful spread of Islam.
Ruqayyah, the third daughter of Prophet Muhammad, was born prior to Islam but embraced it. At that time, she was married to her father’s cousin and he divorced her on the instructions of his father as Mohammad had smashed all the idols from Mecca and tore down the poetry to the pagan gods which surround the black stone, which Muslim’s venerate, in the footsteps of Abraham. Her father had declared his rejection of the gods and she was, thus divorced. Later she remarried one of the richest and most charitable of her father’s followers, for whom purple was a favorite color. Ruqayyah was persuaded to wear that color, not simply because of her father’s status but her husband’s. She, however, died before her husband became the ruler of the Moslems. To an extent, therefore, she was royalty in the eyes of the Moslems.
The purple background is often broken into by blue and other shades of purple. The colors meld into one another and with such light brushstrokes, they become one. In fact, if the abstract painting does not have a centerpiece, it could stand as a piece of art by its own merit. Certainly, purple dominates but the varying small droplets of other colors, raise it to the level of an independent painting. The centerpiece is primarily black and in a near fetal position. There are two bulbous shapes. The smaller one appears to be the head and the other one seems to be a pregnant abdomen, although Ruqayyah never had any children. There are colors to break the black and these denote that her life was a happy one. The painting of Ruqayyah in this position and color is due to a common Arabic phrase. That phrase is “she was born to partner death.” Simply stated, it means that her life was destined to be short. Virtosu reached far back into a millennium and a half to tell the story of the Prophet’s daughter and using the tools of abstract art, recorded her tale, reviving it and passing it along to viewers.