Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Manuscript Of The Khamsa Of Nizami
Safavid, dated Rabi' al-Awwal 934 H/December 1527 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper;
Page 33.5 x 20.2 cm
The Khamsa (Quintet) is a posthumous collection of five narrative poems composed by Nizami of Ganja (a city in present-day Azerbaijan) (d. 1209 CE), one of the greatest romantic poets of Persian literature. This manuscript comprises 401 folios with a four-column, gold-ruled text format containing 19 lines of nasta'liq Persian script; headings appear in blue nasta'liq against a gilded background of spiral scrolls and are embellished with orange, yellow, and green flowers. Twenty-seven miniatures illustrate selected episodes from each of the five poems, the final one signed by the artist, “Tasvir-i Qiyath al-Mudhahhib” (the reproduction of Qiyath the Gilder). Although the colophon names a scribe, Pir Husayn ibn Pir Hasan al-Katib al-Shirazi, it does not identify a patron. Welch has suggested that this book may have been produced for a wealthy individual of high standing or perhaps for the governor of Shiraz, as no Safavid prince lived in Shiraz during the period of production for the manuscript (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 76). The dark leather gilded binding is contemporary with the codex and includes verses in praise of Nizami on its spine. All of the illustrations in this manuscript of the Khamsa are believed to have been executed by the same painter, Qiyath al-Mudhahhib (“Qiyath the Gilder”), and build from a tradition of painting and calligraphy developed in Shiraz in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (ibid., p. 74).
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