Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 1141–1217)
Attributed to Iran, Shiraz
Leather; tooled and gilded; ink on paper
11 1/2 x 7 in. (29.2 x 17.8 cm)
Gift of Alexander Smith Cochran, 1913
Not on view
Manuscripts from the Safavid capital, such as this copy of Nizami's Khamsa, are notable for their high-quality illumination and bindings. Characteristic of Persian doublures of this period is the contrasting colors of this example: the burgundy of the leather, the blue of the center and corner-pieces, and the gold gilding. Venetian Renaissance gilded leather bindings were particularly influenced by Safavid and Ottoman examples.
This copy of Nizami's Khamsa, a famous collection of five epic tales, was produced in Shiraz in the early 16th century. Manuscripts from the Safavid capital, such as this one, are notable for their high quality illustrations and bindings.
The inner cover (or doublure) of this binding is elegantly decorated with a central almond-shaped medallion embellished with finials and corner pieces. A spare geometric design in gold is set against a blue background of intricate floral motifs and Chinese clouds. Characteristic of Persian doublures of this period is the contrasting colors: the burgundy of the leather, the blue of the center and corner-pieces, and the gilding. The linear gilding and discrete frames are standard features as well. 
Similar techniques of gilding leather bindings appeared in Europe in the 16th centuryin Corduba, Spain and Venice, Italy. While the Cordoban school continued the Arabic bookbinding tradition developed in North Africa and Islamic Spain, the Venetian school was more influenced by the Islamic Middle East, and in particular by Ottoman and Safavid examples.
Maria Antonietta Marino in [Carboni 2007].
1. See Duncan Haldane. Islamic Bookbindings in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 1983, pp. 67–136, ex. no. 79 for another example from Shiraz.
2. Anthony Hobson, "Islamic influence on Venetian Renaissance bookbinding", in Venezia e l'Oriente Vicino: Atti del primo simposio sull'arte veneziana e l'arte islamico, Venice, Ateneo Veneto, 1986, pp. 111–17. Ernst J. Grube (ed.) with Stefano Carboni and Giovanni Curatola. Venice 1989.
Alexander Smith Cochran, Yonkers, NY (until 1913; gifted to MMA)
Katonah, NY. Katonah Museum of Art. "Islamic Insights: An Introduction to Islamic Art," March 16, 1980–May 25, 1980, no catalogue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17, 1991–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.
Paris. Institut du Monde Arabe. "Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797," October 2, 2006–February 18, 2007, no. 126.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797," March 26, 2007–July 8, 2007, no. 126.
Venice. Musei Civici Venezani. "Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797," July 28, 2007–November 25, 2007, no. 126.
Venice. Sala dello Scrutinio of the Doge's Palace. "Venezia e L'Islam, 828–1797," July 28, 2007–November 25, 2007, no. 99.
Jackson, A. V. Williams, and A. Yohannan. 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, vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1912. no. 7, pp. 53-58, ill. (b/w).
Valentiner, William Reinhold. "The Cochran Collection of Persian Manuscripts." Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin, old series, vol. 8 (1913). pp. 80-86.
Carboni, Stefano, ed. Venezia e l'Islam, 828–1797. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2007. no. 99, pp. 61, 347, ill. p. 61 (color).
Carboni, Stefano, ed. Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797. New York and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. no. 126, pp. 239, 333, ill. p. 239 (color).
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, silver, and gold on paperAccession: 18.104.22.168On view in:Not on view
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