Quatrain on Separation


This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), that uses hyperbolic expressions to describe the all-consuming affection and pain of separation from a loved one. It says: “If I were to write an explanation of (my) wishes / A fire would burn up the reed of (my) pen, / And if I were to speak again of the burden of separation / The (upright) shape of the nine skies would hunch over.” The verses are executed in black Nasta'liq script on a beige sheet of paper. The text panel is framed by three borders decorated with a variety of gold decorative motifs and is pasted to a light-brown paper backed by cardboard. In the lower-left corner, the text is signed by al-faqir (the poor) 'Abdallah, who asks forgiveness from God. Although the calligrapher is not identified any further here, a later note in English on the fragment's verso attributes the piece to a certain 'Abdallah Isfahani Mishkin Qalam. This calligrapher is not well known, but his nisbah (place name) Isfahani indicates that he was originally from the city of Isfahan in Iran. His nickname Mishkin Qalam ("Musk-Black Pen") is typical of a number of calligraphers. 'Abdallah Isfahani seems to have belonged to the school of calligraphers in the Nasta'liq style active in 16th-century Isfahan, the capital of Safavid Persia. Chief among these appears Mir 'Imad, perhaps one of 'Abdallah's contemporaries.

Last updated: April 27, 2016