'Bahram Gur and the Indian Princess in the Black Pavilion'. The artist has achieved superb color harmony while still conveying the darkness of the pavilion required by the text. The perfection of such patterns as the tile work, and such details as the trays holding bottles, cups and fruit for the royal pair are characteristic of the supremely high quality of these Herat miniatures.
The manuscript from which these three folios (18.104.22.168–.6) are taken contains the Haft paikar (Seven Portraits), one of the five books of Nizami’s Khamsa. Its delicate calligraphy, elaborate opening illumination, and five full-page illustrations are characteristic of manuscripts produced in Timurid court circles during the second quarter of the fifteenth century, probably in Herat. During the sixteenth century, the manuscript was taken to India, where it entered the libraries of the Mughal rulers Akbar and Shah Jahan.
Nizami’s poem, composed in 1197, explores the life of the Sasanian ruler Bahram Gur. Opening with descriptions of Bahram’s prowess as a hunter and closing with accounts of his actions as ruler, the work is mainly structured around the weekly rotation of the ruler’s visits among the palaces of seven different princesses. Each of the princesses comes from a different region of the world, wears clothing of a specific color, and entertains Bahram with a story that is both sensual and edifying.
Notes made at the courts of Akbar and Shah Jahan describe the manuscript as having seven pictures, two more than it contained when it reached the Metropolitan Museum in 1913. Two of the surviving pictures, on folios 10a and 17b, illustrate Bahram’s early exploits as a hunter, while aspects of his visits to the princesses are shown in the other three. One records his visit to the Black Pavilion (fol. 23b; no. 22.214.171.124); the remaining two illustrate stories told by the Princesses of the Green and White Pavilions (fol. 33b, no. 126.96.36.199; 47a, no. 188.8.131.52). The missing paintings may have depicted Bahram’s visit to the Princess of the Golden Pavilion and his conflicts with the ruler of China.
Despite the high quality of this manuscript, its origin has been periodically the focus of debate because its colophon (on fol. 56b) combines the signature of a well-known fifteenth-century calligrapher, Maulana Azhar, with a completion date of A.H. 988/1580 A.D., which accords with the moment when the courtier Khan Khanan donated it to Akbar rather than with the time of its original transcription. John Seyller’s examination of the manuscript’s Mughal inscriptions has revealed that the Mughal rulers, or their librarians, gave it a monetary value that rose from five hundred rupees in the reign of Akbar to one thousand in that of his grandson Shah Jahan.
Priscilla Soucek in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Robinson, B[asil] W[illiam]. "Prince Baysonghor’s Nizami: A Speculation." Ars Orientalis 2 (1957), pp. 383–91, pls. 1–7..
2. Williams Jackson, A[braham] V[alentine], and Abraham Yohannan. A Catalogue of the Collection of Persian Manuscripts, Including Also Some Turkish and Arabic, Presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Alexander Smith Cochran. Columbia University Indo Iranian Series, 1. New York, 1914, pp. 71–79, no. 10.
3. Seyller, John. "The Inspection and Valuation of Manuscripts in the Imperial Mughal Library." Artibus Asiae 57, no. 3–4 (1997), pp. 256, 281–82, fig. 17.
Inscription: Text inscribed calligraphically in Persian, in nasta'liq script by Maulana Azhar (d. A.H. 880/ A.D.1475-6).
(On present folio, in Persian, at top of building): "Allah and nothing but he, and we never worship anyone but he"; (above right window): "Continuous glory, the power"; (above left window): "The glory the Sultan the power"; (above door): "Ye who open the doors."
Emperor Akbar, India (from 1580); his grandson Shah Jahan, India (in 1658); Alexander Smith Cochran, Yonkers, NY (until 1913; gifted to MMA)
Washington. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," April 14, 1989–July 6, 1989, no. 62.
Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," August 13, 1989–November 5, 1989, no. 62.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17, 1991–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Princely Patrons: Three Royal Manuscripts of the Timurid Dynasty," March 4, 1995–June 4, 1995, no catalogue.
Valentiner, William Reinhold. "The Cochran Collection of Persian Manuscripts." Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin, old series, vol. 8 (1913). pp. 80-86.
Jackson, A. V. Williams, and A. Yohannan. "Presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Alexander Smith Cochran." In A Catalogue of the Collection of Persian Manuscripts, Including also Some Turkish and Arabic. 1914. no. 10, p. 71.
Robinson, B. W. "Prince Baysonghor's Nizami." Ars Orientalis vol. II (1957). pp. 383-391, ill. fig. 10 (b/w).
Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (1975). p. 24, ill. (color).
Lentz, Thomas W., and Glenn D. Lowry. "Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century." In Timur and the Princely Vision. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989. no. 62, pp. 173, 175, 342, ill. p. 175 (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. 123A, pp. 4, 183-184, ill. p. 183.
Artist: Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)Date: dated A.H. 931/ A.D. 1524–25Medium: Binding: leather; embossed; gold and color
Manuscript: ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Accession: 184.108.40.206On view in:Not on view
Artist: Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)Date: dated A.H. 931/A.D. 1524–25Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paperAccession: 220.127.116.11On view in:Gallery 455
Artist: Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)Date: A.H. 931/A.D. 1524–25Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paperAccession: 18.104.22.168On view in:Gallery 455
Artist: Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)Date: A.H. 931/A.D. 1524–25Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paperAccession: 22.214.171.124On view in:Not on view