Verses on Tragic Love from Nizami's "Khamsah"


This calligraphic fragment includes three bayts (verses) of poetry that use the tragic love story of Laylah and Majnun, from the third book of Nizami’s epic Khamsah (Quintet), to describe the magic and pain of love. With an initial invocation to God in the upper-right corner, Huwa al-muʻizz (He is the Glorified), the verses then read: “The holy angels that fastened these veils of the green firmament / That placed the cradle of the lovers’ joy outside of this curtain / Those magicians that blow life into bodies by sorcery / They shut the mouths of magic in the presence of the garnet [lip] of the enchanter / New bride of Laylah’s beauty in the empty place of coquetry / They placed [on her] the necklace from the tears of Majnun.” The verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script, written in diagonal and horizontal lines on a beige paper decorated with bird-and-flower motifs painted in gold. The right and left vertical sides of the text panel are framed by a green border bearing gold flecks. The calligraphic specimen is pasted onto a larger sheet of light-yellow paper decorated by interlacing pink arabesques and animals. Between the diagonal and lower horizontal lines on the text panel appears a triangle (or thumb piece) inscribed by the calligrapher Shah Muhammad al-Mashhadi, who notes that mashaqahu (he wrote) the verses and requests forgiveness from God for his sins. Between the first and the second bayt of poetry written diagonally, Shah Muhammad al-Mashhadi also specifies that he wrote the work during the months of the year 968 AH (1560−61). Shah Muhammad al-Mashhadi was a calligrapher originally from the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran who migrated to India. His work as a calligrapher in the nastaʻliq script recalls the style of his more famous contemporary, Mir ʻImad al-Hasani.

Last updated: September 30, 2016