May 14, 2013

Page from the Late Shah Jahan Album: Persian Calligraphy Framed by an Ornamental Border of Flowers and Birds

Page from the Late Shah Jahan Album: Persian Calligraphy Framed by an Ornamental Border of Flowers and Birds

c. 1500 to 1540

Opaque watercolor, gold and ink on paper

Overall: 36.8 x 25.2 cm (14 1/2 x 9 15/16 in.)

Gift of Herbert F. Leisy in memory of his wife, Helen Stamp Leisy 1977.207

Location

Description

Works of the celebrated calligrapher Mir 'Ali were favored for inclusion in the Late Shah Jahan Album, possibly because of his links to the dynasty founded by the Mughals' ancestor Timur (1336- 1405). This calligraphy page was more than 100 years old when it was set into the imperial album and given a border exquisitely rendered with scrolling floral vines bearing birds and deer. The prominence of calligraphy and poetry in Mughal albums is an indication of how these Turkic rulers of India revered Persian literary arts. The central poem by the Persian poet Ibn-I Yamin (1286-1368) calls for stoicism rather than fear of unexpected calamities. It is framed by four small panels containing verses from a love song by the Persian poet Amir Shahi Sabezavari, who died in 1453. They read:

Ever since knotted locks of your hair were tied around your throat,
My neck has also been chained by your tresses.
Henceforth my lot is to lament and cry,
sounding like the [awakening] caravan bell,
Protesting against these fellow travelers who have tied a heavy load on a nightingale.

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