"The Concourse of the Birds", Folio 11r from a Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds)
Painting by Habiballah of Sava (active ca. 1590–1610)
Farid al-Din `Attar (ca. 1142–1220)
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper
Painting: H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
W. 4 1/2in. (11.4cm)
Page: H. 13 in. (33 cm)
W. 8 3/16 in. (20.8 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1963
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 455
The illustration on this folio depicts a scene from a mystical poem, Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds), written by a twelfth-century Iranian, Farid al-Din 'Attar. The birds, which symbolize individual souls in search of the simurgh (a mystical bird representing ultimate spiritual unity), are assembled in an idyllic landscape to begin their pilgrimage under the leadership of a hoopoe (perched on a rock at center right). The careful, harmonious composition is consistent with that of the late fifteenth-century Timurid miniatures also in the manuscript, but three factors indicate that this image is later: the presence of the hunter, who has no place in the narrative; his firearm, a weapon that gained currency in Iran after the mid-sixteenth century; and the signature of the late sixteenth- to early seventeenth-century artist Habiballah
Signature: In Persian: "Signed by Habib Allah".
Inscription: (In Persian): "Painted by order of Shah `Abbas" [added when manuscript was remounted]; (in Arabic, across tree at left): "charitable foundation" (waqf)
In Persian in nasta‘liq script:
Attar, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr منطق الطیر story مجمع مرغان (Conference of the Birds) at the beginning of the book.
(Farīd al-Dīn ‘Aṭṭār, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr, ed. Sayyid Ṣādiq Guharīn, Bungāh Tarjama va Nashr-I Kitāb publication, Tehran, 1342/1959, p.39).
Shah Abbas I, Isfahan, Iran (ca. 1600–1608; presented to Ardebil Shrine); Ardebil Shrine, Iran (ca. 1608–sack of Ardebil, 1826); M. Farid Parbanta(until 1963; sale, Sotheby's, London,December 9, 1963, no. 111, to MMA)
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