Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Muraqqa' (album) Of Portraits And Calligraphies
Qajar, 19th century CE
Materials and technique
Sixteen hinged folios; ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper, in a contemporary lacquer binding
29.2 x 19.5 cm
This muraqqa' (album) opens in concertina-style format to reveal twelve Persian ruler-portraits and eighteen calligraphy specimens mounted onto decorated pages. The calligraphy pages are written in shikasteh, thuluth, naskh and nasta'liq scripts, set within finely illuminated floral borders. The twelve portraits include three of the most important kings of the Shahnama, Jamshid, Kay Khusraw, and Kay Kavus. Portraits of Genghis Khan, Timur, and rulers from the Safavid, Zand, and Qajar dynasties also appear. A painting of Fath 'Ali Shah (r. 1798-1834 CE) in opulent imperial finery on the Sun Throne on fol. 3v contains a medallion inscribed with his name and the date 1234 H/1819 CE. The album may have been commissioned by Fath 'Ali Shah or presented to him by an attentive courtier. According to Robinson, the album is perhaps a “portable” version of the large oil paintings commissioned by Fath 'Ali Shah from the artist Mir 'Ali for the Imarat-i Naw palace in Isfahan (Ekhtiar in Diba 1998, p. 176). Like the life-size portraits of past and contemporary rulers, this album represents another way the Qajars used the visual arts to convey imperial power and dynastic legitimacy.
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