Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Engraved Lamp Stand with Chevron Pattern

Object Name:
Lamp stand
dated A.H. 986/ A.D. 1578–79
Attributed to Iran
Brass; cast, engraved, and inlaid with black and red pigment
H. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm) Diam. (base) 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1929
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 462
The poetry inscribed around this lamp stand expresses mystical Sufi sentiments. Lyrical verses from the Bustan (Orchard) of Sa'di are placed in three zigzag-shaped registers covering the shaft:
I remember one night as my eyes would not sleep I heard a moth speaking with a candle.
[Said the moth:] "Because I am a lover, it is [only] right that I should burn.
[But,] why should you weep and burn yourself up?"
With a wide base and a slightly flared lip, the distinctive tall, cylindrical shape seen in these two examples (nos. 89.2.197 and 29.53) is characteristic of a group of Safavid lamp stands sharing a similar silhouette.[8] After its emergence in the early sixteenth century, it became a recurring metalwork form, as evinced by numerous extant examples from the Safavid period.[9] The rhythmic, repeating ornamentation adorning the surfaces of the present pieces includes interlaced vegetal scrollwork, geometric patterning, and calligraphic inscriptions—all closely related to contemporary manuscript illumination and tilework.
The calligraphic passages, executed in a nasta‘liq script, are taken from the works of classical and contemporary Persian poets, including Sa‘di, Amir Khusrau Dihlavi, and Muhtasham Kashani. Metaphors of lamps, candles, and light abound in these verses, which echo the nature of the objects they adorn. Favored lines appear again and again, sometimes repeated more than once on the same piece. While many of these verses extol physical attributes, Persian poetry typically embodies multivalent meanings. For example, the comparison of the beloved to a candle, and the lover to a moth enraptured by its light, may be understood as a spiritual metaphor in which the moth represents the human soul, longing to be reunited with its ultimate Beloved—God. Whether enjoyed simply as playful puns referring to the objects at hand, as lyric poems extolling the beauty of an earthly beloved, or as expressions of spiritual yearning, the verses on these lamp stands provide a glimpse into the sophisticated interactions between Persian poetry and the visual arts.
Such lamp stands were undoubtedly used within secular settings, but at least two examples displaying similar poetic content have inscriptions linking them to Shi‘i shrines.[10] While such evidence is limited, other similarly shaped lamp stands may also have been destined for religious foundations and shrine complexes. Historical sources tell us that lighting fixtures were considered appropriate gifts to religious institutions, and many types of lamps may have been crafted for this purpose.[11] Some remain within the holdings of such institutions.[12]
Denise-Marie Teece in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
8. In the secondary literature, a number of different Persian terms have been used to refer to these lamp stands, including sham‘dan and mash‘al. For this land stand, see Canby 1999, ill. p. 85; Bussagli 1956, p. 259, no. 457; Dimand 1944, pp. 154– 55; Harari, Ralph. "Metalwork after the Early Islamic Period. In Pope 1938, vol. 3, pp. 2512, 2524; vol. 6, pl. 1384A; Dimand 1930, pp. 118, 120.
9. For a discussion of this form, see Melikian-Chirvani 1982, pp. 263ff., and p. 276 n. 20. See also Zebrowski 1997, p. 115, figs. 130–31. The Metropolitan Museum collection contains five lamp stands of this shape, including the two published here as well as acc. nos. 91.1.554a, 91.1.573, and 91.1.579. All are attributed to either the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Further examples are published in Melikian-Chirvani 1982 and Chefs-d’oeuvre islamiques de l’Aga Khan Museum. Exhibition, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Catalogue by Sophie Makariou and others. Paris and Milan, 2007.
10. Examples with poetic as well as dedicatory inscriptions connecting them with religious foundations are published in Melikian-Chirvani 2007, nos. 135, 136; see also Canby 2009, p. 86, no. 48.
11. See Melikian-Chirvani, A[ssadullah] S[ouren]. "The Lights of Sufi Shrines." Islamic Art 2 (1987), pp. 117–47, pls. 6–8, esp. pp. 118ff., for a discussion of historical sources and descriptions of lamp stands with dedications to religious foundations.
12. For example, see the lamp stand described in Melikian-Chirvani 1982, pp. 236ff., and p. 276 n. 20; an oil lamp published in Zebrowski 1997, p. 110, fig. 120; and a hanging lamp published in Canby 2009, no. 88.
Inscription: Persian inscriptions in nasta‘liq script
In cartouches around top (verses from Ahli Turshizi):

چراغ اهل دل را روشن از روی تو می بینم همه صاحبدلان را روی دل سوی تو می بینم
توئی سلطان عالم کم مبادا از سرت موئی ک
ه عالم طفیل یک سر موی تو می بینم
I see the lamp of the true believers is illuminated by your presence;
All the true believers, I see them turn their hearts toward you;
You, O Sultan of the World, may not even a single hair fall from your head;
[For] I see that the world [is but] a speck, upon one strand of your hair.
In cartouches around middle (a rhyming couplet from an unidentified Persian poet):

شمعی را بگفتم به گرد رخت پروانه چیست گفت من سلطان حسنم مراد پروانه چیست
I said to the candle: what is this moth around your face?
It said: I am the sultan of beauty — what is the desire of the moth?

Followed by a line, written in prose:
سعادت باد و دولت باد و فرصت باد الهی عاقبت محمود گردان

May there be happiness and [good] fortune and opportunity.
O God, make the end praiseworthy.
Persian inscriptions in nasta‘liq script
Around top rim (verses from the Bustan of Sa‘di):

شبي یاد دارم که چشمم نخفت شنیدم که پروانه با شمع گفت
که من عاشقم گر بسوزم رواست ترا گریه و سوزباری چراست

I remember one night as my eyes would not sleep
I heard a moth speaking with a candle
[Said the moth:] “Because I am a lover, it is [only] right that I should burn.
“[But,] why should you weep and burn yourself up?”

Around shaft, top band (repetition of previously cited verses by Sa‘di, followed by brief continuation of same verses and the date):
بگفت ای هوادار مس ینک من. . .
سنه 986
[The candle] replied, “Oh, my poor lover . . .”
[In the] year A.H. 986 [A.D. 1578–79]

Around shaft, middle band (repetition of first line of previously cited verses by Sa‘di, followed by two couplets from Amir Khusrau Dihlavi):
زمانی نیست کز عشق تو جان من نمی سوزد کدامین سینه را کان غمزه پر فن نمی سوزد
There is not a moment that my soul is not burning from love for you.
Which heart is not burning from that artful coquetry?

ز غیرت سوختم جانان چو درغیر زدی آتش تو آتش می زنی درغیروغیراز من نمی سوزد
I am burning from jealousy, my dear, because you set fire to another.
You set fire to another, yet no one else is burned but me . . .

Around shaft, bottom band (verses from Katib-i Turshizi):
شبي که ماه رخت شد چراغ خلوت ما گداخت شمع و نیاورد تاب صحبت ما
That night, when the moon of your face became the lamp of our solitude,
The candle melted, unable to bear our conversation . . .

This couplet is followed by the same verses by Ahli Turshizi found on the upper portion of object 89.2.197, beginning:
چراغ اهل. . .
Mrs. Daniel Z. Noorian, New York(until 1929; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. pp. 118, 120, ill. fig. 55 (b/w).

Pope, Arthur Upham. An Introduction to Persian Art Since the Seventh Century A.D.. London: Peeter Davies, Ltd. by the Shenval Press, 1930. pp. 186-187, ill. fig. 92 (b/w).

Harari, Ralph, and Richard Ettinghausen. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, edited by Arthur Upham Pope. Vol. I-VI. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1938. vol. 3, pp. 2512, 2524, ill. vol.6, pl. 1384A.

Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. pp. 154–155, ill. fig. 94 (b/w).

Bussagli, Mario, ed. "Exhibition of Iranian Art. Palazzo Brancaccio, Giugno-Agosto 1956." In Mostra d'Arte Iranica. Milan: Silvana, 1956. no. 457, p. 259, ill.

Canby, Sheila R. The Golden Age of Persian Art, 1501-1722. London: British Museum, 1999. p. 85, ill. fig. 72 (b/w).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 164, pp. 237-239, ill. p. 239 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 68-69, p. 74, ill. pl. 9 (color).

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