Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Portrait Of The Poet Hatifi
Safavid, circa 1511 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Page 11.8 x 7.7 cm; Image 9.4 x 6 cm
The Shia poet Hatifi, wearing a Safavid turban with a red baton (taj), is the subject of this small painting. Gold inscription bands identify Hatifi as the subject and Bihzad as the painter. This small portrait would have been mounted in an album. David Roxburgh proposed that it was once in Dust Muhammad’s 1544-45 CE album for Bahram Mirza, brother of Shah Tahmasp (Roxburgh 1998, pp. 34, 49). Hatifi (d. 1521 CE) was a well-known poet for the Timurid ruler Sultan Husayn Bayqara (d. 1506 CE) in Herat and later for Shah Isma'il (r. 1501-24 CE) after the Safavid conquest. Dickson and Welch suggest that this portrait created by Bihzad is perhaps the one Shah Isma'il requested of the artist to commemorate his meeting with the Shia poet in 1511 CE outside Herat (Dickson and Welch 1981, vol. I, p. 34 and p. 240, n. 12). Shortly thereafter, Hatifi began the Isma'ilnama, his poem celebrating the victorious reign of Shah Isma'il. Stripped of the virtuoso details that made Bihzad famous, the power of this portrait concentrates on the intense gaze of the poet. Bihzad’s later paintings exhibit a new interest in expression as either the artist’s eyesight or his dexterity began to falter. ‘Portrait of Hatifi’ epitomizes Bihzad’s late style; the plain blue background and Hatifi’s unadorned robe further draw the viewer’s eye toward the bearded poet’s gaze.
© 2007 The Aga Khan Development Network. This is the only authorised Website of the Aga Khan Development Network.