Back to browse highlights

"The Eavesdropper", Folio from a Haft Paikar (Seven Portraits) of the Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami

Maulana Azhar (d. 1475/76)

Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)
Painting by Unknown
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
ca. 1430
present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm) W. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm) Page: H. 11 in. (27.9 cm) W. 7 3/16 in. (18.3 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Alexander Smith Cochran, 1913
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This folio once illustrated a magnificent manuscript of Nizami’s Haft Paikar (Seven Portraits). The story of the Seven Portraits comprises a series of moralizing tales as told to the Persian hero Bahram Gur by seven princesses. This lively and lyrical scene illustrates a story in which a youth spies upon maidens swimming in a garden pool by moonlight. The voyeur is barely visible here, peering out of the shuttered window, unbeknownst to the playful bathers below.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Text inscribed in Persian nasta'liq script by Maulana Azhar (d. A.H. 880/ A.D.1475-6).

    The inscriptions on the building were retranslated with the help of Abdullah Ghouchani (08/15/2008). They read as follows: at the top of building, "Allah and nothing but He, and we never worship anyone but He"; above the right window, "Continuous glory, the Everlasting"; above left window, "The glory the Sultan, the power"; above the door, "O Ye (God) who opens doors." It should be noted that the inscription above the left window is grammatically incorrect in Arabic (the English, too is awkward, because a literal translation has been provided). This raises questions about whether the inscriptions are original to the manuscript. Additionally, the last word of the script above the right window is unclear; Dr. Ghouchani guessed that it might be "Al-Baqa" in Arabic, which would translate as "the Everlasting." (Mariam Rahmani, Volunteer, Undergraduate at Princeton University, 08/15/2008)

    In Persian in nasta‘liq script
    Khamsa of Nizami , هفت پيكر story نشستن بهرام گور روز آدینه در گنبد سفید و افسانه گفتن دختر پادشاه اقلیم هفتم

    (Nizami Ganjavi, Sab’a-yi hakim Nizami Ganjavi, Haft Paykar, ed.Hasan vahid Dastgirdi, Muassaa-ye Matbu’ati Ilmi publication, 2nd ed., 1363/1985, p.299-300..)

    On the building in thuluth script:
    الله و لا سواه و لا نعبد إلا ایاه
    God and no other one else and we do not pray to anyone else but him.
    Above the door in kufic script:
    يا مفتح الابواب
    O you who are open the gates (who answer our problems)

  • Provenance

    Emperor Akbar, India (from 1580); his grandson Shah Jahan, India (in 1680); Alexander Smith Cochran, Yonkers, NY (until 1913; gifted to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History