Quatrain of Kamal al-Din Ismaʻil


This calligraphic fragment includes a rubaʻi (iambic pentameter quatrain) written by the famous ʻirfani (mystical) poet Shaykh Kamal al-Din Ismaʻil al-Isfahani (circa 1172−1237). The author’s name appears in the upper-right illuminated corner (or thumb piece) of the text panel. The four lines of verses are written diagonally in black nastaʻliq, framed by cloud bands, and placed on a gold background. The verses read: “Look at that strand of hair and the face of that famous idol / It [the hair] is knotted up without a battle or adversary / Look at those eyebrows, which like wrestlers / Go head to head and arch their backs.” These verses describe the loved one’s hair and eyes. The woman’s hair is perfectly disheveled and her curved eyebrows meet in the center of her forehead, in the shape of wrestlers hunched over and ready for combat. The calligrapher has signed his work diagonally below the last verse, with the expression katabahu al-ʻabd al-mudhnib ʻImad al-Hasani (written by the humble servant, ʻImad al-Hasani). In the triangular panel below his signature and above the third line of poetry, ʻImad al-Hasani asks for God’s mercy and forgiveness for his sins. Mir ʻImad (1552−1615) spent time in Herat and Qazvin and finally settled in Isfahan (then 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. Many works in international collections are signed by him, including other calligraphies bearing his name in the collections of the Library of Congress, although whether all these pieces are by his hand remains uncertain.

Last updated: September 30, 2016