Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Double Finispiece From The Diwan Of Sultan Ibrahim Mirza
Safavid, 1582 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper
Page 23.8 x 16.6 cm
According to its preface, this divan (also spelled diwan), or collection of poetry, was compiled by Gawhar Shad, the daughter of Ibrahim Mirza (1543/44-77 CE), nephew to the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76 CE). Orphaned at six years of age, the young prince was raised under the care of his powerful uncle, who gave him his own daughter in marriage and appointed him governor of the holy city of Mashhad. Ibrahim Mirza was a great patron of the arts and a poet, scholar, calligrapher and artist in his own right; he is said to have written five thousand verses in Persian and Turkish (Qadi Ahmad in Minorsky 1959, p. 157) and was the patron of a superbly illustrated and illuminated manuscript of the poet Jami’s Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones, 1556-65 CE) during his tenure in Mashhad. In 1574 CE, the governor returned to the Qazvin court of Shah Tahmasp and stayed until the ruler’s death in 1576 CE. Ibrahim Mirza was murdered the following year by Tahmasp’s son and successor, Isma‛il II (r. 1576-78 CE). This folio represents the image of the garden in its wider connections to spirituality and mysticism. It depicts the figure of the love-sick, delirious Majnun, known from the poet Nizami’s Khamsa (Quintet), seated among wild animals, including a leopard, lion, gazelles and rabbits, in a landscape abundant with fantastic pastel-coloured rocky mountains and foliage. Tree trunks and curving branches grow out of jutting rocks and spill out of the picture frame into the border of the folio, which is interspersed with phoenixes, lotuses and peonies delicately rendered in gold. Framed diagonally from each other at two corners of the painting, Persian verses in nasta'liq script complement the desperately romantic mood of the painting. The verse above the painting speaks to the writer’s own suffering and delirium, while the one at the bottom alludes to the story of the moth and the flame: “I am bewildered by your love, O selfish flame / a crude moth, my burning approaches”. Both the story of Laili and Majnun and the tragic romance of the moth and the flame have mystical connections to Sufism, and it is not surprising that such metaphors would be included in a cultured prince’s divan.
© 2007 The Aga Khan Development Network. This is the only authorised Website of the Aga Khan Development Network.