Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Manuscript Of The Tadhkira Of Shaykh Safi Al-Din
Safavid, dated Sha'ban 990 H/August-September 1582 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper
35.2 x 22 cm
This painting belongs to the only known illustrated manuscript of the Tadhkira (Biographical Accounts) of Shaykh Safi‛ al-Din (d. 1334 CE), a Sufi saint and the founder of the Safavid dynasty of Iran. The painting illustrates the accompanying text, in which the shaykh recounts a dream he had foretelling the rise of the Mongol-descended Chubanids (r. 1335-57 CE). In the dream, the shaykh sees a field filled with candles lighting up one after the other, representing the Chubanids and their descendants and their imminent rise to power. The episode is depicted beautifully by a division in two parts: the lower half of the painting shows Shaykh Safi‛ and two accompanying figures reposing in a grassy plain dotted with colourful flowers and a cherry blossom tree, while the upper segment, painted in an idyllic lavender shade, illustrates the shaykh’s vision. Dream and reality become united by their situation under a single, bright blue sky and are held together by the length of the sinewy cherry blossom tree that extends from the bottom of the painting through the dreamscape and into the sky. The manuscript is dated Sha‛ban 990 H/September 1582 CE.
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