June 30, 2016

Louis L. Peck, Manufacturer and Dealer in Varnishes, Pine Oil, Virgin and Spirits of Turpentine

This lithograph from circa 1855 is an advertisement showing the busy street corner at Front and Walnut Streets near the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The view includes a building containing an oil manufactory, and a flour and farina store. Visible in the background are the tall masts of sailing ships, the busy wharf for the Walnut Street Ferry, and Smith and Windmill Islands in the Delaware River. Pedestrians walk the sidewalks and cross the intersection at Front and Walnut Streets. Delivery wagons and drays traverse the business-lined streets. One horse-drawn delivery wagon is driven by an African American man. This delivery wagon is used for the oil business of Louis L. Peck, and has advertising text on the side. In the right foreground of the image, a boy rolls a hoop, passing near a female peddler sewing at her food stand. The scene is depicted within a lithographed tromp l'oeil wood frame containing a small inset image that shows an exterior view of Peck’s Works (located on Dock Street). The varnish business owned by Louis L. Peck operated from circa 1848 until 1855. The printer of this lithograph was Wagner & McGuigan, a firm specializing in the production of advertising prints.

Panorama of Philadelphia. Chestnut Street, East of Fifth

This lithograph from circa 1856 shows a panoramic view of businesses marked with pre-consolidation addresses located on the south side of the 400 block of Chestnut Street (134–140, i.e., 420–428) in Philadelphia. Signage and ornaments adorn the buildings. The view includes L.J. Levy & Company, dry goods store (420); Bailey & Kitchen, jeweler, and Broadbent & Company, daguerreotype rooms (422); W.F. Warburton, late W.H. Beebe & Company, hatter, and C. Stinger, dressmaker (424); James E. Caldwell & Company, jeweler (426); and M.A. Root, gallery of daguerreotypes, Wriggens & Warden, jeweler, and S. Marot, engraver (428). The scene also shows heavy street and pedestrian traffic, including horse-drawn carriages and an omnibus. Part of the old City Hall, located at Fifth and Chestnut Streets, is also visible. A crowd of people stands at the tree-lined street corner near the building. The lithograph was produced by the firm Schnabel, Finkeldey & Demme, a partnership between three German-born Philadelphia lithographers: William Demme, John F. Finkeldey, and Edward Schnabel. The firm was active under this name circa 1856–57, and produced a series of prints detailing commercial buildings on Chestnut Street, as well as sheet music covers.

Quatrain by Rumi

This calligraphic piece includes a rubaʻi (iambic pentameter quatrain) composed by the Persian poet Rumi (1207−73). Written diagonally in black nastaʻliq script on a white-and-blue marbled paper, the text is also decorated by four illuminated triangles (or thumb pieces) in the spaces left empty by the intersection of the diagonal lines and the rectangular frame. The text panel is framed by two borders in pink and beige painted with interlacing gold vines and is pasted onto a larger piece of paper decorated with blue flower motifs. The verses read: “(Oh) wine-bringer, because of (my) grief for you, (my) mind and spirit left / Give (me) wine so that (my) pride may disappear. / My patience and ability are spent in this way, / I too would vanish, if only I could.” The poet describes the saqi (wine-bringer) as the object of his “intoxicated” love. His abilities disappear “in this way” (i.e., in loving her), and he wishes that he—much like his abilities conquered by the effects of inebriation—also would fade away. The text is signed by the “poor” (al-faqir) Mir ʻAli, much as it is in a similar fragment in the Sackler Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Mir ʻAli Heravi (died 1543) was a calligrapher in nastaʻliq script active in the city of Herat (present-day Afghanistan) during the 16th century until he was taken to Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan) in 1528−29 by the Shaybanid ruler ʻUbaydallah Khan Uzbek. Other calligraphic fragments written by, or attributed to, Mir ʻAli also are held in the collections of the Library of Congress.

"ʻAqd-namah" Marriage Decree

This superb document consists of a legally-binding ʻaqd-namah (marriage contract) written in Persia (Iran) in 1219 AH (1804−5). Like other Persian marriage contracts of the 19th century, the document is quite imposing (at almost a meter in height) and its gold work indicative of the couple's wealth. At the top appears a sarloh or sar lawh (illuminated gold heading) containing a number of prayers to God written in red ink on a gold background. On the right of the illuminated sarloh and in the right margin decorated by flower-and-leaf motifs painted in gold appears another invocation to God as the Ayat al-nur (Light of the Heavens and the Earth, an invocation from Qurʼan 24:35). Between the illuminated prayers and the main text panel appear a number of seal impressions of the various marriage witnesses and the identification of the document as a nikah (marriage certificate). In the main text panel, various prayers to God are offered before introducing the bride and the groom, their various genealogies, their places of residence (Isfahan), and the marriage settlement provided by the mahiryah (groom). In this particular marriage contract, the groom offers his bride 100 dinars, a bakery, and other shops he owns. These “collateral” gifts seem related to the mubayaʻat-namah (sales contract) dated Muharram 28, 1228 AH (January 31, 1813) on the backside of this marriage contract. In this sales contract, several individuals enter into an agreement about the renting of several shops in the grand bazaar of Isfahan. The location of the shops, their goods (e.g., a bakery), and rental fees are specified. In the upper-right corner is the witness’s signature, his seal impression, and the date of Shawwal 2, 1236 (July 3, 1821). This appears somewhat strange, as the witness’s signature postdates the contract by seven years. One might speculate that the difference in dates may be due to a lengthy process of negotiation or an a posteriori addendum to the contract. The sales contract is written in taʻliq script tending towards shikastah. The text is unadorned, which is quite unlike the marriage contract. It appears that both documents are related to one another and provide detailed evidence of the various business and personal activities of a well-to-do merchant active in Isfahan during the first decade of the 19th century. Marriage contracts produced during the 18th and 19th centuries in Persia (Iran) belong to a class of Islamic legally-binding documents, such as vaqf-namahs (deeds of endowments) and vakalat-namahs (powers of attorney), a number of which survive in Iranian collections.

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.

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.