"Calligraphic Composition in Shape of Peacock", Folio from the Bellini Album
Illustrated album leaf
Attributed to Turkey
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 9 9/16 in. (24.3 cm)
W. 7 1/16 in. (17.9 cm)
Louis V. Bell Fund, 1967
Not on view
This album, known as the "Bellini" Album because it once contained a portrait of a Turkish prince by the Italian artist Gentile Bellini, was almost certainly assembled in Turkey during the first half of the seventeenth century, probably for Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–17). The somewhat playful practice of weaving an inscription into the form of an animal, bird, flower, or inanimate object such as a ship remains a popular tour de force among Islamic calligraphers to this day. Here, the inscription in divani script follows the outer curve of the elegant peacock's spread tail. It is composed of blessings for an unnamed Ottoman sultan and reverses direction halfway through. Because of the highly decorative nature of the page, the shift from the profile of the body of the bird to the frontal view of its tail does not appear incongruous. The inscription reads: Beautiful as a houri, of angelic character, of auspicious omen, envy of the perfect ones, parrot of sweet tongue and sweet speech, peacock of the garden of .... the lofty decree, sultan of the sultans of the world, fortunate and august, khaqan of the shahs, Darius of the time, Faridun of the age, hero of the world, [text reverses direction] champion of earth and time, sultans of the sultan of the family of 'Uthman ibn Sultan Ghazi Khan ... may God extend the days of his [happiness] to the day of [judgment?].
Inscription: Translation: Beautiful as a houri, of angelic character, of auspicious omen, envy of the perfect ones, parrot of sweet tongue and sweet speech, peacock of the garden of... the lofty decree, sultan of the sultans of the world, fortunate and august, Khaqan of the Shahs, Darius of the time, Faridun of the age, hero of the world (text vice versa), champion of earth and time, sultan of the sultans of the family of Othman ibn Sultan Ghazi Khan...may God extend the days of his (happiness ?) to the day of (judgment ?) Written in praise of an Ottoman sultan. Notes: Translated by A. Schimmel, 1982.
Marking: See additional card.
[ Art market, Istanbul, before 1912; sold to Martin]; F. R. Martin, Stockholm (in 1912); Hagop Kevorkian, New York (until d. 1962; his estate sale, Sotheby's, London,December 6, 1967, no. 213, to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26, 1998–June 28, 1998, no catalogue.
Martin, F. R. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th century. vol. 1. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1912. pp. 59-60.
"The Property of the Kevorkian Foundation, December 6, 1967." In Highly Important Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1967. no. 213, p. 75.
Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 54, ill. fig. 64 (b/w).