Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Calligraphy By Fath Ali Shah
Qajar, circa 1800 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper
36.3 x 26.7 cm
The arts of the word and image were not confined to artists and calligraphers at the courts of the Iranian rulers, and the Qajar dynasty was no exception. This beautifully inscribed sample in Persian nasta'liq script demonstrates the calligraphic skills of the Qajar ruler Fath 'Ali Shah, who filled the page with a writing exercise involving the repetition of this phrase, containing words worthy of a powerful king: “My reed pen shames Jupiter (lord of the planets) and Mercury (scribe of the heavens).” His signature is proudly inscribed between the first and second lines: “Mashqahu Fath 'Ali Shah Qajar” (Fath ‛Ali Shah Qajar wrote it). The elegantly formed letters are written in black ink and outlined with gold leaves against the beige colour of the page, while the remaining interstices are ornamented with colourful floral scrolls and sprays and set against a gold background.
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