Divan of Sultan Husayn Baiqara

Sultan 'Ali al-Mashhadi (active late 15th–early 16th century)

Object Name:
Non-illustrated manuscript
dated A.H 905/ A.D.1500
present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; lacquer binding
10 1/2 x 7 1/4in. (26.7 x 18.4cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Richard S. Perkins and Margaret Mushekian Gifts, 1982
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This lavishly embellished manuscript comprises a collection (divan) of poetry composed by the late fifteenth-century Timurid ruler Sultan Husain Baiqara (r. 1470–1506) in eastern or Chaghatai Turkish. The calligraphic text, written on a variety of colorful papers mounted within elaborately stenciled and painted margins, was copied by one of Sultan Husain's favored calligraphers - Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: In the colophon: signed and dated by Sultan `Ali Mashhadi [see Inscriptions].

    Inscription: - Signed on the last page: the lowliest slave Sultan `Ali Mashhadi -- may his sins be forgiven -- served in the writing of these (fortunate, blessed or happy, blissful) verses in the last third of the blessed month of Ramadan, 905 A.H. [late April 1500] in the capital Herat; then the remark in shikaste, dated 1300 A.H. [1833] that this is really in the handwriting of the "leader of calligraphers" Sultan `Ali. (Trans. by Annemarie Schimmel, 1985)

    - Inscribed on lacquer binding, a dedication and a seal with the date A.H. 1300. The binding bears at its inner border identical Persian verses with a very complicated rhyme:
    Thousand thanks that this colorful album from its beginning
    To its end has reached as the heart of the friend wanted it
    It is a beautiful album: never in the course of time
    The checkered sky saw such an album
    The nau-khatt (either "those who just learn writing" or "those with a fresh down") of Tibet and Khalk have taken the script (or "the blackness") from it
    The pretty ones of Barbary and Barda` have taken lessons from it.
    The pages were painted like the picture-house of Mani
    And evident with clear meanings like the "moon of Muqanna`"
    Their niceties (are) like pretty-faced beloveds
    Who have hidden their cheeks in a veil and put their faces in a burqa`.
    (Trans. by Annemarie Schimmel, 1985)

  • Provenance

    Philip Hofer, Cambridge, MA (until 1982; sold to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History