May 9, 2016

Two Verses of Poetry

This calligraphic fragment includes a small rectangular panel of text pasted onto a much larger page decorated with a blue paper and painted with gold flower motifs. This fragment resembles a number of pages used to mount calligraphies and paintings in Mughal Indian albums, such as the famous Saint Petersburg Muraqqaʻ. The text panel includes eight verses inscribed in rectangular frames and decorated in gold cloud bands, constituting a “text” border for the central panel. At the top and bottom of the main panel appear cut out pieces of ebru or abri (marble paper) and illuminated finials typically reserved for the top of a sarloh (text page). The two lines of poetry in the central panel, written in black nastaʻliq, framed by cloud bands outlined in blue ink, and placed on a beige background decorated with painted gold flowers, read: “When the spirit of the world came out of the garden with a floating skirt / The birds of the garden’s spirit flew up, you say, like out of a body.” The poet describes the arrival of his loved one, nicknamed the Jan-i jahan (Spirit of the world), and the euphoria he feels upon seeing her. As birds fly up, his spirit rises so high as if to pierce through his bodily cage. The calligrapher has followed to the letter the maxim, “form fits function.” Taking his clue from the repeated n sound in the Persian poem, he has emphasized the circular interlacing shape of the nun (n) letters on the sheet of paper. Like lacework, the calligraphy is “stitched” together by the artistic layout of the recurring rounded nuns.

Verses on Hidden Love

This calligraphic panel is executed in black nastaʻliq script on a ground decorated with flowers painted in gold and topped by a painting depicting two foxes in a landscape. The poetic text describes the subterfuges of the beloved. The poem reads in part: “Yesterday that moon (the beloved) brushed the curls of her hair / Over her face, she placed her amber-smelling hair / By this stratagem, she covered her beautiful visage / So that he who is not allowed cannot see her.” A number of letters and words are repeated in this calligraphic panel, so as to create a playful composition that fills up the entirety of the text panel. This calligraphic game—itself a device of dissimulation—echoes the contents of the poem. Below the text panel and outside the text frames a minute inscription in black ink appears written horizontally on the beige paper decorated with gold flecks. The inscription attributes the calligraphy to the qiblat al-khattatin (destination of the calligraphers), Mir ʻImad Qazvini. The calligrapher can be identified as Mir ʻImad al-Hasani (died 1615). He was born in 1552, spent time in Herat (present-day Afghanistan) and Qazvin, and finally settled in Isfahan (then the 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. It is possible that this particular calligraphy was decorated, when it was made, by the painting of two foxes and pasted to a gold-flecked paper under the Mughals. A square seal impression in the lower-right corner bearing the epithet Bahadur and the date 1186 AH (1772‒73) supports the hypothesis that this piece belonged to a Mughal patron by the second half of the 18th century at the latest. The Library of Congress collections include other calligraphies by, or attributed to, Mir ‘Imad.

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.

Illuminated First Page and Identification Note of 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 first page of the farhang includes a sarloh (lavish illumination) followed by an Arabic bismillah (In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful) written in gold on a blue ground and followed by a translation in Persian. Then follows Jamal al-Din’s introduction, which identifies the work as a lexicon or lughatnamah (book of words) containing a number of lughat (Persian- and Arabic-language words) and istalahat (expressions) compiled from a variety of works in nazm (prose) and shiʻr (verse). After his introduction, he includes an excerpt of poetry in Persian, the verses of which are separated by three small dots executed in red ink. The note on the verso identifies Jamal al-Din’s work as having been completed in the Dar al-sultanah (Mughal capital) Agra in the month of Jumadah I 1028 (April 1619). Below the note appears a smeared area, which may have contained a former owner’s ex-libris mark or reading statement. A sheet of gold also has been added to the lower part of the folio, camouflaging two seal impressions. Below the smudge and on top of the gold leaf appears a later note written in diagonal giving the truncated title of the work, i.e., Kitāb-i Farhang (Dictionary). The text is framed by lavish gold-illuminated borders and margins decorated with putti, phoenixes, and grapes 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.