The inlaid brass and silver decoration is placed in diagonal cartouches running along the body of the huqqa base, with Persian verses praising tobacco in nasta‘liq script. The poem on the body of the base consists of eleven rhymed couplets which contain several playful puns referring to the relaxation resulting from smoking a huqqa. This style of ornamentation with flowers and line-breaks resembles that in Deccani manuscript illuminations. It is rare to have inlaid calligraphy in bidri ware. This is thus an unusual piece.
Inscription: On the shoulders: As my lips open up to praise the tobacco My tongue will wash the flame with the water of Kawthar [a river in Paradise] It is because of this [tobacco] that the temperament of nobles and plebeians has been drawn to it; That is why with this burning head one has a love affair with every one. On the body: The refresher of gatherings of the intoxicated and the sober the cheering of the temperament of free and the captive; Its fumes increase the value of love so that its perpetual speech becomes the name: O the loving! It won’t let you hold your breath for a moment, since it is independent of the watch of the hypocritical voices; Its tongue would flow to a quaint saying its tradition is the Sahih of Bukhari (the newly prepared one would be perfect with its vapors) It removes melancholy from those affected; a sigh comes out like the heat of life. Its sounds are in the cities and orchards; it is better than the noise made in the enameled goblet of the intoxicated ones When it prepares for singing according to custom, it plays the qanun in nava It sometimes is in tune with a flute, sometimes with a lute. In its body there is continuous water with a loud cry; Out of its passion, the heart of the fire rages; Out of its leaf, it provides an apparatus for merry-making. Its flute has a long life of pleasure-giving; in praising it, the tongue is a zealous pen; From its…there is commotion. It has become happy from the ups and downs of the world, because it is constantly in water and fire.
translated by Manijeh Bayani
Marking: Stamped on bottom with a seal that appears to read "'malikahu"? (property of) Shaikh Ahmad".
Private collection, Germany; [ Sam Fogg, London, until 2003; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.