May 9, 2016

"Hikayat" (Moral Story) on Friendship from Saʻdi's "Gulistan"

This calligraphic fragment appears to comprise an excerpt from the Gulistan (The rose garden) by Shaykh Saʻdi Shirazi (circa 1213–92), in which he provides readers with a variety of hikayat (anecdotes or stories with moral lessons). This text describes the anger of a king toward his servant and his desire to punish him, whereupon the servant writes a letter to stress his faithfulness and to seek forgiveness. This particular story stresses the virtue of royal clemency. The text is executed in black shikastah-nastaʻliq on a cream-colored paper. The lines of text, which alternate diagonally, are framed by cloud bands on a gold background. The text panel is framed with red, pink, and green borders and is pasted to a larger sheet of paper backed by cardboard. In the lower-right corner of the frames appears a minute scribble, which may be the calligrapher’s signature. Unfortunately, it is now illegible. Calligraphic sheets written in shikastah-nastaʻliq script similar to this fragment were produced in Iran during the 17th and 18th centuries. Another calligraphic fragment from Gulistan, similar to this one, is in the collections of the Library of Congress and is also presented in World Digital Library.

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.