This page from an anthology of Persian poetry illustrates a poem about the moon as it enters the houses of all twelve zodiac signs. In the three scenes here, the moon is shown visiting Gemini, depicted as two youths with joined, reptilelike tails, then in the house of Cancer, a large, scaly crab, and finally seated next to the lion of Leo.
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Detail of Taurus sign
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Title:Folio from a Mu'nis al-ahrar fi daqa'iq al-ash'ar (The Free Man's Companion to the Subtleties of Poems) of Jajarmi
Author:Muhammad ibn Badr al-Din Jajarmi (Iranian, active 1340s)
Date:dated A.H. 741 / 1340–41 CE
Geography:Made in Iran, Isfahan
Medium:Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm) W. 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1919
Leaf from the Mu'nis al-ahrar manuscript
This page is the verso of a leaf from a Persian manuscript entitled Mu' nis al-ahrar fi daqa' iq al-ash'ar ("The Free Man's Companion to the Subtleties of Poems"). The text, a large anthology of Persian poetry, was completed in the town of Isfahan, in central Iran, by the poet and scribe Muhammad ibn Badr al-Din Jajarmi in A.H. 741 / A.D. 1341. The work is divided into thirty chapters, the twenty-ninth of which, "Illustrated Poetry and the Lunar Elections," contains verses by the twelfth-century poet Muhammad al-Ravandi.
The present leaf, an illustration of the second short poem, on the Lunar Elections, includes twenty-four verses—that is, two full verses (forming a single ruba'i or quatrain) for each sign of the Zodiac. The poem, in which the personification of the Moon enters the houses of all twelve signs, is addressed to the Beloved and describes the latter's appearance and character. However, since the poem is mainly astrological in nature, the verses also include predictions and common-sense wisdom. For example, the quatrain at the beginning of this page can be translated as: "With the Moon in Gemini, partnerships, making marriages and journeys I Are good, if you do them, O you mine of jewels.I Have clothing cut, make your requests from men of the pen. I Do not take medicine and be sure to shun bleeding."
In the illustrations of this poem the Moon is represented as a woman with two long braids, who wears a crown and holds a crescent that frames her head. She is pictured here in conjunction with Gemini, Cancer, and Leo. The simple composition of each painting shows the Moon, set against a red background filled with tall plants rising from tufts of grass, sitting cross-legged on the right side of the page and looking at the sign of the Zodiac illustrated on the left.
Gemini, the Twins, is depicted at the top of the page. Gemini appears as two youths whose reptile-like tails are joined; they hold a stick, on top of which is the head of the pseudo-planet Jauzahr (Dragon), here transposed into a human face. The youths wear identical gold crowns, green tunics decorated with gold flowers on the chest, and knotted gold belts. Cancer, the Crab, represented in the center, is a round, scaly, pale-violet creature that holds the circular head of its "planet," the Moon, in its claws. Leo, the Lion, at the bottom, a pale-beige animal with long legs and a peculiar bearded chin, turns its back to the Moon.
Inscription: The text in Persian reads:
Recto: "O lofty in origin, if you wish to know clearly In which of the signs of zodiac the Moon is, Know first that every month the Sun enters a new sign. For instance, if the Sun should be in the month of Aries, And if the Moon is ten days old, add ten more to that. When the doubling has been done, then add five more. Listen well to this point: allow one sign for each five. Begin from the sign in which the illustrious Sun is: The Moon is in Virgo, if the calculation is done right. Look well at this example I have given; In whichever sign the Sun is, make this calculation, And if you do not understand, others do. I make it brief." "If the Moon should be in Aries, put on new clothes, exert yourself in being bled, hunting, enjoyment, and war. Refrain from marriage and taking medicine. Drink the cup of joy with military men." "With the Moon in Taurus, know that companionship is good. It is good for you to start seeing women. Construction goes well, and the making of compacts, Making marriages, and entertainments for guests."
Verso: "With the Moon in Gemini, partnerships, making marriages and journeys Are good, if you do them, O you mine of jewels. Have clothing cut, make your requests from men of the pen. Do not take medicine and be sure to shun bleeding." "With the Moon in Cancer, it is proper to have clothes cut, And if you take purgatives they will work excellently. Buy jewels, travel on water, for that is good. Send messengers wherever you need to." "The Moon is in Leo. Work with fire is good. Make your requests in the presence of kings. Lay foundations, be bled, and make compacts And avoid sewing and wearing new clothes."
(Translated by A. H. Morton in Swietochowski and Carboni, "Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images," New York, 1994)
[ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, until 1919; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Miniature Painting," October 10, 1933–January 7, 1934, no catalogue.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images: Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s," February 1–May 1, 1994, no. 5 a-e.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art," February 4–August 31, 1997, no. 11.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. p. 25, ill. fig. 5 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. "New York, October 9 through January 7, 1933–1934." In A Guide to an Exhibition of Islamic Miniature Painting and Book Illumination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1933. p. 23.
Dimand, Maurice S. "Islamic Miniature Painting and Book Illumination." Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin vol. XXVIII, no. 10 pp. 166–71.
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. ill. vol. V, pl. 818 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 34, ill. fig. 18 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. Publications, 36.. Lahore: The Panjabi Adabi Academy, 1964. p. 34, ill. fig. 18 (b/w).
Swietochowski, Marie, Stefano Carboni, Tomoko Masuya, and Alexander H. Morton. Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images : Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. no. 5a–e, pp. 38–41, ill. pp. 38, 41 (color).
Carboni, Stefano. Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 11, pp. 28–29, ill. (b/w).
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Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (Iranian, Paj ca. 940/41–1020 Tus)
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