“Duʻā.” Prayer for a King


This calligraphic fragment includes a prayer in Arabic for a king (and his many honorific epithets). The top panel reproduces exactly the lower panel, suggesting that a pounce or stencil was used for these two calligraphic replicas. Both panels are individually cut out, provided with a separating horizontal line and an illuminated border, and they are pasted to a green sheet of paper decorated with flecks of gold and backed by cardboard. Both panels also are executed in a version of the "hanging" taʻliq script called tarassul, in which letters such as the alif (a) and the lām (l) are connected by large looping ligatures. The letters themselves are not filled in with ink; rather, they are outlined in gold on the beige paper. For this reason, the calligrapher Kamal al-Din Husayn has noted in the lower-right corner of the upper calligraphic panel that he has hararahu (outlined), rather than katabahu or raqamahu (written) the composition. Kamal al-Din's laqab (nickname), Ikhtiyar al-Munshi (the Elderly Secretary), also appears in gold-outlined script in the lower-right corners of both calligraphic panels, in which he states that he also mashaqahu (wrote) the composition. Therefore, Kamal al-Din was responsible both for the writing and the outlining of the composition. Kamal al-Din Husayn (died 974 AH, 1566‒67 AD) was a calligrapher during the reign of the Safavid ruler, Shah Tahmasp I (reigned 1524‒76). The monarch supported his work in Tabriz and offered him a number of rewards, which Kamal al-Din refused. He also made him his personal secretary and bestowed upon him the honorific epithet Ikhtiyar al-Munshi al-Sultani (the Elderly, Royal Secretary). Even though he was blind in one eye, he was a master of all calligraphic scripts, especially nastaʻliq. Judging from this specimen—as well as others in the Library of Congress and the Sackler Gallery of Art—he also was a master of outlined tarassul. He was a contemporary of Shah Mahmud al-Nishapuri, one of whose works is also held in the collections of the Library of Congress.

Last updated: February 6, 2018