Art/ Collection/ Art Object

"Coffin of Imam 'Ali", Folio from a Falnama (The Book of Omens) of Ja'far al-Sadiq

Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
mid-1550s–early 1560s
Attributed to Iran, Qazvin
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 22 5/16 in. (56.7 cm)
W. 16 7/8 in. (42.8 cm)
Mat : H. 28 in. (71.1 cm)
W. 22 in. (55.9 cm)
Frame: H. 30 1/2 in. (77.5 cm)
W. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1950
Accession Number:
Not on view
This folio is from a manuscript of the Falnama (Book of Omens), an illustrated divinatory book. It depicts 'Ali, the first Shi'i imam, shown with a face veil and a flaming halo. He leads a camel with a coffin while two other men, his sons Hasan and Husain, watch from behind a hillside. According to Anatolian mystical thought, Imam 'Ali not only predicted his own death but also told his two sons that when he died, a veiled man would carry his coffin away on a camel for burial. He cautioned them not to question the man. When 'Ali’s prediction came true, Hasan and Husain could not resist asking the man’s identity and discovered that he was in fact their father, who was carrying his own body to the grave.
Inscription: Definition: Persian
Location: Above figures
Translation by H. McAllister: Excellency Mortaza (Chosen) Ali, on him be peace! Excellency Imam Hasan Mojtaba (Chosen), on him be peace! (above camel) Coffin

Marking: Above figures in Persian
[ E. Hindamian, Paris, until 1950; sold to MMA]
Tokatlian, Armen. Falnamah: Livre Royal des Sorts. Paris: Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2007. no. 3, pp. 16, 17, ill. (b/w).

Farhad, Massumeh, and Serpil Bagci. "Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery." In Falnama: The Book of Omens. Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2009. no. 26, pp. 42, 126-127, ill. (color).

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