Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Manuscript Of Hazrat Ali'S Mi'A Kalimat
Safavid, dated 916 H/1510 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper
35 x 24.5 cm
This manuscript contains a compilation of one hundred short maxims attributed to the first Shia Imam, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. The first page is headed by a two-tier frontispiece. A rectangular cartouche bordered with an angular braid motif is divided by a geometric design created using compasses; singled out from the overall pattern are two side pendants and a central medallion containing the basmallah. The gilded background of the medallions and the dark blue background of the cartouche are filled with stylised foliage and fleurons, and the same decorative vocabulary also appears in the upper band. This frontispiece’s two-tier structure, the plait motif, the geometrical divisions and the combination of black and blue are reminiscent of the style of manuscript illumination produced in Herat in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Beneath this frontispiece the text is divided into panels of varying width. The Arabic text is written in muhaqqaq with its Persian translation in naskh or rayhani. The spaces left on either side of the Persian quatrain are filled with titles in thuluth, written diagonally in gold or blue ink; these are matched on the left by the numbering of the maxims (“first saying”, “second saying”), and on the right by various phrases (“peace be upon him [‘Ali]”, for example). At least two dated manuscripts by ‘Abd al-Haqq Sabzavari survive today. This calligrapher also worked on architectural decorations, producing, in particular, calligraphic designs for the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad.
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