Art/ Collection/ Art Object


early 18th century
Attributed to Iran
Silver with black inlay
H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 9 in. (22.9 cm) D. 1 9/16 in. (4 cm) Wt. 24.4 oz. (691.8 g)
Credit Line:
Gift of Marilyn Jenkins, 1984
Accession Number:
Not on view
Under the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, steel or silver standards were used in military, royal, and religious ceremonies. The talismanic power of this standard ('alam) is understood through the choice of the inscriptions. On one side, in the centermost circle, the Shi'i prayer venerates the Prophet Muhammad's family through his cousin and son-in-law 'Ali, his wife Fatima, and their sons Hasan and Husain, supported by the protective Throne verse (2:255). The other side honors the twelve imams, with the name of the twelfth imam enclosed in the central circle. As for the fingers, they are incomplete and display a combination of Qur'anic verses and popular Shi'i invocations. The power of the names of these religious figures, the Qur'anic verses, and the Shi'i prayers endow this standard with its amuletic properties.
Inscription: Arabic, Nasta'liq script; translation:
-Side one: (in the central round): "Ya Ghaffar (trans. O Forgiver) then "Allah, Hadrat Imam Mahdi of the end of time - blessing and greetings upon him"; (surrounding circle) in Nasta'liq, epithets (?) of the Imam Mahdi, beginning with al-Mustafa al-Murtada , then illegible, then al-Fatima then rest illegible [possibly these are qualifying names, and should be read as al-Mustafavi (belonging to Mustafa, i.e. Muhammad the Prophet) al-murtadavi (belonging to `Ali al-Murtada etc.; (outer circle) in Nasta'liq (the names of the twelve Imams in round cartouches); (on the five fingers [the middle one being missing]) in Nastal'liq: "Help from God and near victory", from the Qur'an, Sura 61/13, and continuing with the Shi'a invocation of `Ali; nadi `Aliyyan: "Call `Ali, the locus of manifestation of miracles, and you will find him a help in every grief and sorrow..." and ending with "By your position as Friend of God, o `Ali, o `Ali, o `Ali";
-Side two: (in smaller circle on the palm) in Nasta'liq (the names Allah, Muhammad, `Ali, Hasan, Husain, and Fatima); (on the fingers) in Nasta'liq: "In the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate" and from the second finger onward continuing in Persian verse, beginning with Ya Muhaimin (O Protector) and continuing "By the Prophet and by `Ali... " [ names the twelve Imams]... and by the Mahdi who is in concealment." The poem is apparently longer, and implores Divine succour"; (remaining areas) in Nasta'liq: the Throne-verse of the Qur'an (Sura 2/256), which has very strong protective power). (Trans. Annemarie Schimmel, April 1985)

Arabic poem and Qur'anic verse are written on each finger in nasta’liq script:
نصر من الله و نصر قریب
ناد علیاً مظهر العجایب [ تجده عوناً لک في النوایب]
کل هم و غم سینجلي بولایتک یا علي یا علي یا علي
In the palm of the hand in nasta’liq script:
حضرت علي مرتضی/ حضرت حسن/ حضرت حسین/ حضرت زین العابدین/ حضرت محمد الباقر/ حضرت جعفر الصادق/ حضرت موسی کاظم/ حضرت علي بن موسی رضا/ حضرت علي نقي/ حضرت محمد تقي/ حضرت حسن عسکري/ حضرت زکي ...
Continu on the inner circle in Nasta’liq script:
حضرت امام مهدي آخر الزمان علیه صلوات الله و السلام/ یا غفار
On the large circle Arabic poem in Nasta;liq script:
لي خمسة اطفئ بهم حر الجحیم الحاطمة المصطفی و المرتضی و ابناهما و الفاطمة
On the other side In Nasta’liq script:
On the fingers:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
And Persian poem as:
مهیمناً بنبي و علي و هر دو پسر [بعابدین باقر امام دین جعفر]
بموسی و برضا و تقي و هم بنقي بعسکر و بمهدي امام غیب اندر
On the circle:
الله محمد علي فاطمة حسین و حسن است
Quranic verses (255 chapter 2)
الله لا اله الا هو الحي القیوم لا تأخذه سنة و لا نوم له ما في السموات و و ما في الارض من ذا الذي یشفع عنده الا بإذنه یعلم ما بین ایدیهم و ما خلفهم و لا یحیطون بشئ من علمه إلا بما شاء وسع کرسیه السموات و الارض و لا یؤده
Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, New York (until 1984; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield," August 29, 2016–February 13, 2017, no catalogue.

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. v.. III, p. 2515, ill. v. VI, pl. 1388B, finial of processional standard; one of a pair.

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Notes on the Lusterware of Spain." Ars Orientalis vol. 1 (1954). pp. 148-154, ill. pl. 6, fig. 29.

Safadi, Yasin Hamid. Islamic Calligraphy : with 200 illustrations. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1978. pp. 120-121, ill. fig. 134.

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). pp. 46-47, ill. fig. 56 (b/w).

Farhad, Massumeh, and Serpil Bagci. "Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery." In Falnama: The Book of Omens. Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2009. no. 25, pp. 124-125, 248, ill. pl. 25, fig. 9.2.

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