Verses on the Permanence of Good Deeds


This calligraphic fragment includes verses composed by the celebrated Persian poet Ḥāfiẓ (died 1388−89, 791 AH) on the futility of worldly goods. Beginning with a praise of God, huwa al-fard (the Unique), in the upper-left corner, the verses continue: “Oh wealthy one, soothe the heart of the indigent / Because the treasury of gold, riches, and coins will not remain / On this topaz canopy (the sky) they have inscribed in gold / That nothing will remain except the good deeds of the generous ones.” The verses are executed in black nasta'liq script on blue paper and outlined in cloud bands on a lavishly illuminated background. Between the two bayts (verses) of poetry appear illuminated triangles (or thumb pieces), which fill in the interim space created by the intersection of the diagonal lines of text and the rectangular frame. In the lower-right corner appears the name of the calligrapher, Muhammad Husayn al-Kashmiri. Originally from Kashmir, he became a pupil of Mir 'Ali Heravi and then joined the imperial book atelier of the Mughal emperor Akbar (reigned 1556−1605) in Agra. There, Muhammad Husayn al-Kashmiri was responsible for transcribing a royal copy of Amir Khusraw Dihlavī's Khamsah (Quintet) in 1595−98 (now in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore). Other calligraphic specimens, including one dated 1580 in the Shrine of Imam Riza in Mashhad, Iran, suggest that this fragment in the collections of the Library of Congress was executed in India around 1575−1600.

Last updated: July 31, 2014