The Ephemerality of the World


This calligraphic panel includes a number of verses describing the transience of worldly goods. Two lines of Arabic poetry appear in the upper horizontal panels, and two lines of Persian poetry frame the central text panel on the right and left vertical. The line in the left vertical contains the first half of a verse from Firdawsi’s Shāhnāmah (Book of kings). The right vertical reads: “We have no other friend beside you in the whole world.” The left vertical reads: “Who knows except for God” (the missing subsequent line is “How the wind will play tomorrow”). The four horizontal verses inscribed in black nastaʻliq script on the illuminated ground of the central panel also describe the impermanence of the world: “The world passes and how engaged you are in it / Now that a cold breeze of old age blows / What trust in the leaf and the branch of the tree / Especially when the autumn wind (begins to) blow.” Each calligraphic panel is cut out and pasted on the black background, which is provided with a pink frame decorated with gold leaves. The composition is pasted to a larger white sheet of paper decorated with gold, blue, and red flowers and backed by cardboard. The fragment is neither dated nor signed. However, it appears to have been produced in 16th or 17th century Iran and placed later in a muraqqaʻ (album) of calligraphies.

Last updated: September 30, 2016