This manuscript is a copy of the tale of Khusrau and Shirin composed by the Persian poet Hatifi, and shows the importance of Persian literature in the Ottoman world. It contains seven paintings, executed in a distinctive style, related to western Iranian tradition from the Aq Quyunlu, but also borrowing elements from European sources. The page shown depicts Khusrau riding on Shabdiz, his beautiful horse, while hunting. The calligraphy, illumination, gilding, and painting were completed by a single artist calling himself Suzi ("the burning one").
Complete illustrated Ottoman manuscripts are very rare outside Turkey. Never pillaged by conquests of foreign powers, Turkey’s great libraries today still hold the vast majority of illustrated books created for Ottoman monarchs and court officials over the centuries. Even in Istanbul itself, however, early Ottoman illustrated manuscripts such as this one from the reign of Sultan Bayezid II (1481–1512), firmly dated by chronogram—a short poem the numerical value of whose letters add up to a date in the Islamic system, in this case A.H. 904/1498–99 A.D.—are a phenomenal rarity. Much studied and often cited, the Metropolitan’s Hatifi manuscript is a vital link in the history of early Ottoman Turkish painting.
The text, illustrated by seven miniature paintings, is Khusrau and Shirin, a romantic narrative poem in the Persian language from a Khamsa (Quintet), a suite of five poems written by the contemporary Persian court poet Hatifi (d. 1521), whose fame in Ottoman Istanbul attests to the popularity of Persian as the literary language of the Ottoman court. Adapted from a well-known earlier telling of the same tale by the Persian poet Nizami (d. 1209) in his Khamsa completed shortly after 1200, the text of Hatifi’s poem, in rhymed couplets, is written in Persianate nasta‘liq script in two columns on each folio of the manuscript.
The miniatures are among the earliest examples of Ottoman pictorial art to have survived. Of very small scale and only distantly related to the court painting style of Timurid Herat then dominant in the Persian world, these paintings reflect two sources. The high horizons, tightly curled clouds, small, round heads of the figures, and the landscapes of yellow-green on green, all recall a painting style popular at the Tabriz court of the Turkmen, the Ottomans’ immediate neighbors to the east. By contrast, an emerging Ottoman interest in the use of orthogonals—receding diagonals—in paintings depicting architecture is probably derived from Ottoman exposure to paintings or prints from Europe employing the new technique of spatial representation known as linear perspective.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. The most complete discussion of the manuscript is found in Yoltar-Yildirim 2005.
Signature: On colophon of manuscript, the illuminator signs "the work of Suzi, the helpless"
Inscription: Date A.H. 904 in chronogram, written in white at end of poem, f78v.
In Persian; all the paintings, illumination and calligraphy are by Suzī who may be Suzī Isfahani who lived in the 10th century Hijri ( A.H. 904 /A.D. 1498). The last folio of this manuscript contains five lines of poetry in nasta‘līq script which contains the date in Abjad numbers and mentions that the manuscript was penned by Suzī. The following poem is found on the last page:
شد تمام این کتاب فرخنده دلگشایی کند بغمخواره
فرح قلب حاصلست اورا هرکه این آورد بنظاره
خط و تذهیب و تبر و تصویرش شد ز دست من دل آواره
بیشتر زین چون توانم کرد که مرا یک دلیست صد پاره
شد تمامی این را تاریخ عمل سوزیست بیچاره
This celebrated book was completed, it made the sad (ones) happy
Anyone who sees it will become happy at heart. The calligraphy, illumination and painting is by my hand.
I could not have done more for I have one heart fragmented into a hundred pieces
The manuscript was completed on this date, the work of the humble Suzī ---Amala Suzi-i bīchāra and the date in Abjad numbers as A.H. 904 (A.H. 1498).
Osman Ata'ullah, Turkey; Sir Gregory O. Page-Turner, England(until 1827; his sale, March 1827, no. 190,to Phillips); Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st Baronet, England (1827–d. 1872); Bibliotheca Phillippica, England(1872–1968; its sale, Sotheby's, London,November 25–26, 1968, MS 3127, to MMA)
New York. Grey Art Gallery, New York University. "Tulips, Arabesques and Turbans," April 26, 1983–July 4, 1983, no. 195.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Making the Invisible Visible," April 2, 2013–August 4, 2013, no catalogue.
Ettinghausen, Richard. "Reports of the Departments: Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 28, no. 2 (1969). pp. 79-81, ill. p. 79 (b/w), folio 22r.
Swietochowski, Marie, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Notable Acquisitions 1965–1975 (1975). p. 133, ill. (b/w).
Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). pp. 46-47, ill. pp. 46-7 (color), folios 15r and 22r.
Atil, Esin, ed. Turkish Art. Washington, D.C and New York: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980. p. 161, ill. fig. 71 (b/w), fol. 22b.
Petsopoulos, Yanni, ed. "Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire." In Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans. New York: Abbeville Press, 1982. no. 195, p. 199, ill. pl. 195 (color), folio 22r.
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 117, ill. fig. 87 (color).
Grube, Ernst J. Studies in Islamic Painting. London: Pindar Press, 1995. p. 460, ill. fig. 11 (b/w).
Brend, Barbara. "Illustrations to Amir Khusrau's Khamsa." In Perspectives on Persian Painting. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. p. 153.
Yoltar-Yildirim Aysin, and Brill. "A 1498–99 Khusraw va Shirin: Turning the Pages of an Ottoman Illustrated Manuscript." Muqarnas vol. 22 (2005). pp. 96-109, ill. figs. 1-12, folio 1v fig. 4; 2r fig. 5; 2v fig. 6; 15v fig. 8; 22v fig. 9; 32r fig. 10; 49v fig. 11; 67v fig. 12; 78r fig 7 (color)
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. 200, pp. 288-289, ill. p. 289 (color).
Artist: Shaikh Hamdullah ibn Mustafa Dede ( (d. 1520))Date: ca. 1500Medium: Main support: ink, watercolor, and gold on paper
Margins: ink, watercolor and gold; marbled paper
Binding: leather and goldAccession: 1982.120.3On view in:Gallery 450