Standing Woman and a "Ghazal" of Hafiz

This painting includes an outer frame comprised of a ghazal (lyric poem) composed by the Persian poet Hafiz (died 1388‒89). The ghazal describes a lover's affection for his beloved until the day of his death. The lover compares the woman's eyebrows to a mihrab (the prayer niche in a mosque) and thus the direction of his own repeated desirous entreaties. He also states that he is willing to seek out magicians to find a love potion to spellbind her. It appears that the poem is linked to the painting it contains, which depicts a beautiful young woman walking among plants and using her right index finger to point to her strikingly arched eyebrows. Between her two fingers she also holds a tuft of hair, either taken from her own head or perhaps given to her by her lover as a token of his affection. The motif of the large abru (arched eyebrow) as a mark of feminine beauty is common in Persian art and literature. The composition’s style is typical of single-sheet paintings produced in Safavid Isfahan, the capital of Persia (Iran), during the 17th century. At that time, painters such as Riza ʻAbbasi (died 1635) and Muʻin Musavvir (died circa 1707) frequently depicted single figures or lovers in embrace. Backgrounds tend toward single tones (such as grisaille) or include various motifs lightly painted in gold as used in this particular composition. This painting originally was signed, as a small black smudge is visible on the right of the woman’s hip. The artist’s signature has been erased and is now illegible.

Page from the "Farhang-i Jahāngīrī"

This fragment is the last folio of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī, a Persian lexicon purportedly executed in Agra in 1028 AH (1618‒19). A total of four folios of this work are held in the collections of the Library of Congress. The author of this Persian-language farhang (dictionary) was Jamal al-Din Husayn b. Fakhr al-Din Hasan Inju Shirazi (died 1626), a learned man from an old Persian sayyid (noble) family who came from Persia to Akbar’s court in India, where he held high offices. He began writing his dictionary in 1596‒97 at Akbar’s request, basing it on Persian poems and previous lexicographical works. Because of the scope of the work and his continuous revisions, he did not complete the dictionary until after Akbar’s death in 1605. Instead, he presented the work in 1608 to Akbar’s successor Jahangir. For this reason, Jamal al-Din’s Persian dictionary came to be known as the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī (Jahangir’s dictionary). Along with the Burhān-i Qāṭiʻ and the Farhang-i Rashīdī, it is one of the three most important Persian-language dictionaries produced in Mughal India. The recto of this folio includes a number of words and expressions beginning with the last two letters of the Arabic alphabet, namely hāʼ and yāʼ (h and y). This list of words ends on the folio’s verso, where a new series of az (expressions) immediately follows. Marginal glosses cross-referenced to the main text with numbers appear on the left and outside the dark-purple vertical text frame containing gold flowers and vines. These notes offer additional comments and poetical excerpts on the words listed in the main text. The folio’s recto margins are decorated with images of Mughal youths sitting in a landscape painted in gold ink. The folio’s verso margins are decorated with various birds (including a phoenix) in a landscape painted in gold ink. During the early 20th century, a section of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī was acquired by the French art dealer Demotte, who cut out its pages and used the decorative margins as mounts for Safavid and Mughal paintings. In some cases, paintings remounted on margins originally intended for the dictionary retain the marginal glosses accompanying the main text.

Page from the "Farhang-i Jahāngīrī"

This fragment is the last folio of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī, a Persian lexicon purportedly executed in Agra in 1028 AH (1618‒19). A total of four folios of this work are held in the collections of the Library of Congress. The author of this Persian-language farhang (dictionary) was Jamal al-Din Husayn b. Fakhr al-Din Hasan Inju Shirazi (died 1626), a learned man from an old Persian sayyid (noble) family who came from Persia to Akbar’s court in India, where he held high offices. He began writing his dictionary in 1596‒97 at Akbar’s request, basing it on Persian poems and previous lexicographical works. Because of the scope of the work and his continuous revisions, he did not complete the dictionary until after Akbar’s death in 1605. Instead, he presented the work in 1608 to Akbar’s successor Jahangir. For this reason, Jamal al-Din’s Persian dictionary came to be known as the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī (Jahangir’s dictionary). Along with the Burhān-i Qāṭiʻ and the Farhang-i Rashīdī, it is one of the three most important Persian-language dictionaries produced in Mughal India. On recto and verso the author includes an essay on the Persian language, its dialects, a summary of its grammar, and a list of the 44 earlier farhangha and kutub-i lughat (books of words) he consulted for his work. These are listed in a grid format on this page, and continue on the fragment's verso. The dictionaries include, among many, the Farhang-i Shāhnāmah (Dictionary of Firdawsi's Shahnamah [Book of Kings]) and the Farhang-i Ibrāhīmī (Abraham's dictionary), and a Persian dictionary compiled by Ibrahim Qivam al-Din Faruqi in 1448 for the ruler of Bengal, Barbak Shah. The text frame is illuminated with panels of interlacing flowers, and the folio's borders include a number of putti, birds, and grapes painted in gold ink. Unfortunately, the marginal decoration suffers from a number of worm holes. During the early 20th century, a section of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī was acquired by the French art dealer Demotte, who cut out its pages and used the decorative margins as mounts for Safavid and Mughal paintings. In some cases, paintings remounted on margins originally intended for the dictionary retain the marginal glosses accompanying the main text.

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.

The Lover’s Lament

This calligraphic fragment includes a lover’s lament about his beloved’s indifference. The verses read: “My body is exhausted from sorrow, what will I do? / The fire is in my burning heart, what will I do? / Because of (her), who brands my deplorable heart / (She) is a garden and spring for others, what will I do?” The verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script on a beige paper decorated with bird and leaf designs painted in gold. The main text panel is bordered by a number of other verses in both diagonal and vertical registers forming a frame. The entire composition is pasted to a larger sheet of paper decorated with a pounced vegetal motif in green and backed by cardboard. The fragment is neither dated nor signed. However, it may have been produced in Iran during the 16th or 17th century.

Nizami’s "Iskandarnāmah"

This folio includes a fragmentary text from Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah (The book of Alexander the Great), the fifth book of his Khamsah (Quintet). Written during the last few decades of the 12th century, the Khamsah consists of five kitab (books) written in mathnavi (rhyming distichs). The Iskandarnāmah of Nizami Ganjavi (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) recounts Alexander the Great’s heroic exploits, battles, and journey to China, and his travel to Gog and Magog at the end of the world. It is loosely based on the epic narrative of Alexander’s deeds as recounted by Firdawsi in his Shāhnāmah (Book of kings) completed in the early 11th century, which may have drawn from the history of Alexander as written by his official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus (circa 370−327 BC).  This particular text is executed in black nastaʻliq script in four columns separated by plain gutters. The text panel is framed by lines of various colors and pasted to a larger sheet bearing a number of a posteriori notes at the top. It appears to date from the 16th or 17th century. Another textual fragment of Nizami’s Iskandarnāmah is also held in the collections of the Library of Congress and can be seen in the World Digital Library.

Jahan Malak Khatun’s Prayer for Power

This calligraphic panel includes three bayts (verses) of Persian poetry possibly composed by Jahan Malak Khatun, a female poet of the Qajar period (not to be confused with the 14th century poet of the same name). Beginning with an invocation of God as al-ghafur (forgiving) and al-rahim (merciful), the verses then provide a repeated versified duʻaʼ (prayer) for the patron's continued mulk (power): “Oh, the continuity of power depends on the survival of your substance / Good fortune has sewn a cloak of power for your rank / Your policy on the land was such that not even one bird / Could fly away into the air of the country / Malak-i Jahan [the power of the world] wants you to invoke God / And this will bring victory as blessings from the prayer of power.” The diagonal verses are executed in black nastaʻliq script on a beige paper and framed by cloud bands on a gold background. Blue and beige frames decorated with gold sprinkles have been pasted onto the sheet in a rather sloppy manner. The text panel originally contained a signature in the lower-left corner, which has been erased and is no longer legible. As Jahan Malak Khatun was active in Persia (Iran) over the course of the 19th century, this particular fragment must have been produced sometime in the 19th or 20th century.

Bahram Gur Hunting from Nizami’s "Khamsah"

This painting represents an episode drawn from Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft Paykar (Seven thrones), the fourth book of his Khamsah (Quintet). The great Sasanian king Bahram Gur (reigned 430‒38), famous for his hunting prowess and thus known by his nickname (Bahram Gur means “wild ass”), astonishes his companions with his quasi-divine skill and power in hunting onagers. After his expedition and as a gesture of generosity, he orders 1,200 onagers (half to be branded and half to be earmarked with gold rings) to be distributed among his people. The scene shows the ruler and his entourage on horseback against a pink and green landscape as they shoot wild animals with arrows. Behind a hillock appear four other men either looking at the scene below or observing the birds flying in the gold-painted sky. Above and below the painting are illuminated panels of the story’s text, which continues on the fragment’s verso. The illuminated panels with diagonal text and triangular corners, or “thumb pieces,” in the upper-right corner create a visual marker for the painting. The painting is typical of 16th-century Persian compositions, but it was repaired and repainted at a later date. A large rectangular panel was added, and missing areas of the painting were filled. Some of the characters’ faces also bear overpainting. The collections of the Library of Congress contain several other paintings illustrating this and other episodes from Nizami’s Khamsah.

Painting of Khusraw in Battle; Shirin Looks for Khusraw from Nizami’s "Khusraw va Shirin"

This painting depicting a battle scene between two armies was inserted into a manuscript of the second book of Nizami Ganjavi’s Khamsah (Quintet), Khusraw va Shirin (Shirin and Khusraw). In this book, the adventures and battles of the Persian king Khusraw are described, as is his love for the Armenian princess Shirin. The painting does not appear to match the text, which is about Shirin’s search for Khusraw. Probably inserted during the 20th century, the painting depicts soldiers on horseback attacking their fleeing enemies with drawn swords. One soldier holds an orange war banner as well. The text on the verso describes raftan Shirin bi-talab-i Khusraw (Shirin's search for Khusraw), which is also written in red ink in the chapter heading on the right of the third line of text. The verses are written in black nastaʻliq script in four columns, divided by three gutters marked off by gold-painted vertical lines. The text panel is framed by lines of several colors. The original text, executed in black nastaʻliq script in four columns, may date from as early as the 16th century, although it also may be a modern reproduction.

Page from the "Farhang-i Jahāngīrī"

This fragment is the third folio of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī, a Persian lexicon purportedly executed in Agra in 1028 AH (1618‒19). A total of four folios of this work are held in the collections of the Library of Congress. The author of this Persian-language farhang (dictionary) was Jamal al-Din Husayn b. Fakhr al-Din Hasan Inju Shirazi (died 1626), a learned man from an old Persian sayyid (noble) family who came from Persia to Akbar’s court in India, where he held high offices. He began writing his dictionary in 1596‒97 at Akbar’s request, basing it on Persian poems and previous lexicographical works. Because of the scope of the work and his continuous revisions, he did not complete the dictionary until after Akbar’s death in 1605. Instead, he presented the work in 1608 to Akbar’s successor Jahangir. For this reason, Jamal al-Din’s Persian dictionary came to be known as the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī (Jahangir’s dictionary). Along with the Burhān-i Qāṭiʻ and the Farhang-i Rashīdī, it is one of the three most important Persian-language dictionaries produced in Mughal India. The recto of this folio provides a list of words starting with the letters fr executed in red ink and followed by their definitions and sample usages in poetical excerpts. This list of fr words continues in alphabetical order on the folio’s verso. A marginal gloss cross-referenced to the main text with the number 4 appears in the center and outside the right vertical purple frame. This gloss offers additional comments and poetical excerpts on one of the words listed in the main text. The folio’s margins are decorated with birds, storks, phoenixes, and mythical animals in a garden landscape painted in gold ink. During the early 20th century, a section of the Farhang-i Jahāngīrī was acquired by the French art dealer Demotte, who cut out its pages and used the decorative margins as mounts for Safavid and Mughal paintings. In some cases, paintings remounted on margins originally intended for the dictionary retain the marginal glosses accompanying the main text.