Verses on Hidden Love


This calligraphic panel is executed in black nastaʻliq script on a ground decorated with flowers painted in gold and topped by a painting depicting two foxes in a landscape. The poetic text describes the subterfuges of the beloved. The poem reads in part: “Yesterday that moon (the beloved) brushed the curls of her hair / Over her face, she placed her amber-smelling hair / By this stratagem, she covered her beautiful visage / So that he who is not allowed cannot see her.” A number of letters and words are repeated in this calligraphic panel, so as to create a playful composition that fills up the entirety of the text panel. This calligraphic game—itself a device of dissimulation—echoes the contents of the poem. Below the text panel and outside the text frames a minute inscription in black ink appears written horizontally on the beige paper decorated with gold flecks. The inscription attributes the calligraphy to the qiblat al-khattatin (destination of the calligraphers), Mir ʻImad Qazvini. The calligrapher can be identified as Mir ʻImad al-Hasani (died 1615). He was born in 1552, spent time in Herat (present-day Afghanistan) and Qazvin, and finally settled in Isfahan (then the capital of Safavid Persia) where, as a result of his implication in court intrigues, he was murdered in 1615. He was a master of nastaʻliq script, whose works were admired and copied by his contemporaries and later collected by the Mughals. It is possible that this particular calligraphy was decorated, when it was made, by the painting of two foxes and pasted to a gold-flecked paper under the Mughals. A square seal impression in the lower-right corner bearing the epithet Bahadur and the date 1186 AH (1772‒73) supports the hypothesis that this piece belonged to a Mughal patron by the second half of the 18th century at the latest. The Library of Congress collections include other calligraphies by, or attributed to, Mir ‘Imad.

Last updated: September 30, 2016