• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12241

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    20 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 31

    SHAYKH MUSLIH AL-DIN SA'DI (D. AH 691/1292 AD): GULISTAN

    SIGNED SULTAN 'ALI MASHHADI, SAFAVID HERAT, DATED AH 910/1504-05 AD

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    SHAYKH MUSLIH AL-DIN SA'DI (D. AH 691/1292 AD): GULISTAN
    SIGNED SULTAN 'ALI MASHHADI, SAFAVID HERAT, DATED AH 910/1504-05 AD
    Poetry, Persian manuscript on paper, 156ff. plus four fly-leaves, each folio with 10ll. of elegant black nasta'liq in panels outlined in gold and black, important words and phrases picked out in blue and red, the wide margins either of varying colours or elegantly marbled, and decorated with cusped cartouches filled with stencilled floral motifs, numerous owner's stamps and notes at beginning and end, in contemporaneous binding with flap decorated with gold stamped panels, the doublures with découpe medallions
    Text panel 4¾ x 2¾in. (12 x 7cm.); folio 9¾ x 6¾in. (23.7 x 17.1cm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Library seals at the beginning and end of this manuscript indicate that it was in the Mughal Royal Library. It entered the library under the reign of Akbar in 1593, was inspected several times under Jahangir. Transfers were then made during Shah Jahan's reign and it was inspected again during 'Alamgir's.

    Akbar’s fascination for calligraphy and painting is well attested. He honoured master calligraphers with prestigious titles such as Zarrin Qalam and Shirin Qalam and collected manuscripts himself - for instance a Diwan of Hafiz now in the Collection of the Raza Library in Rampur or a copy of the Gulistan, copied in Bukhara and now in the Royal Asiatic Society, London. Both bear Akbar’s name and titles (Gian Carlo Calza (ed.), Akbar, The Great Emperor of India, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 2012, pp.36-37). Akbar employed a number of foreign calligraphers in his atelier, such as the Bukhara scribe Mir Husayn al-Katib who worked on the great Hamzanama. Works of Persian calligraphers were particularly prized at the Mughal court, such as those of Mir ‘Ali al-Katib (d. 1556), and many of these works found their way to royal albums. Some of Mir ‘Ali’s works were probably brought to the Mughal court by way of his son Muhammad Baqir who emigrated to India and was mentioned by Abu’l Fazl’s Chronicle of Akbar’s reign, the Ain-i Akbari (Islamic Calligraphy, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1998, no.54, pp.170-71).

    This manuscript was copied in 1504-05 by Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi during the last years of Sultan Husayn Bayqara’s reign in Herat. Born around 1437-38, Sultan ‘Ali was considered the first among equals by calligraphers of the period. In his famous treatise, Qadi Ahmad describes his writings as the sun among other planets. He spent most of his life at Sultan Bayqara’s court in Herat but returned to Mashhad where he died 10 Rabi' I AH 926/2 March 1520 AD after the invation of Herat by the Uzbeks (V. Minorsky, Calligraphers and Painters, A Treatise by Qadi Ahmad, son of Mir Munshi, Washington, 1959, pp.101-103).

    A celebrated copy of Jami’s Khamsa in the Chester Beatty Library, from which a detached folio sold at Christie’s, London, 4 October 2012, lot 25, shares a parallel and fascinating history with the present manuscript. Signed by Sultan ‘Ali Mashhadi in August 1520. It was copied for Badi’ al-Zaman Mirza, Sultan Husayn’s son. It entered Shah Isma’il Safavi’s library as a gift from one of Sultan Husayn’s amirs’ sons, Mirza ‘Ali Beg Amir Muhammad Baranduq Barlas, who appears in the Chronicles of Babur, alongside our scribe. The manuscript found its way to the library of ‘Abd al-Rahim Khan Khanan (1556-1627 AD), one of the most powerful Mughal nobles of his time, who was educated at Akbar's court and was then gifted to Jahangir who recorded its provenance in his own hand. It is very tempting to think that our manuscript found its way to India either through Bukhara and the Uzbek link or following the path of a learned amirs from Akbar’s entourage.

    The exquisite marbled borders decorating this manuscript are executed in the 16th century fashion and are of the highest quality. Originating in Iran in the 15th century, the taste for beautiful coloured ‘clouded’ papers reached India in the last quarter of the 16th century (Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2015, p.157). It is tempting to suggest that the manuscript was re-margined in India, as it was the case for the Khamsa discussed above. The palette of bright orange and green are reminiscent of Indian manuscript illumination. However, Indian attempts at marbled paper in the 1580s appear to be too rudimentary to achieve such fine result. See for instance a copy of the Divan-i Anvari executed for Akbar in Lahore in 1588 which is copied on marbled paper (Harvard Art Museum, No.1960.117). The earliest attempt to produce marbled paper in India is recorded in Bijapur in 1580. It is possible that the manuscript was re-margined after its entry to the Royal Library in 1593.

    Provenance

    Library seals at the beginning and end of this manuscript indicate that it was in the Mughal Royal Library. It entered the library under the reign of Akbar in 1593, was inspected several times under Jahangir. Transfers were then made during Shah Jahan's reign and it was inspected again during 'Alamgir's.

    The manuscript was gifted to Akbar's Royal Library in his 39th regnal year/October-November 1593, by a certain Reza Divaneh. There is a seal impression of a librarian called 'Inayat al-Din and a note that it was inspected in tir [regnal] year 40 (June-July 1594) with the seal reading li-'ibadat lutufullh.

    During Jahangir's reign, it was inspected several times and it bears two seal impressions of the librarians Maqsud 'Ali ibn Husayn 'Ali and Fathullah ibn Abu'l-Fath, both dated AH 1006/1597-98 AD.

    Under Shah Jahan it was classified as 'first class' and was inspected a few times. There is the seal impression of an official of Shah Jahan dated AH 1042/1632-33 AD, another of 'Inayat Khan Shah Jahani dated [regnal] year 28 (1654-55) and another of Ahmad Shahid. It was put to the custody of Tayyib. A note on its condition of being damaged and worn was entered before transferring it from the custody of Tayyib to that of Muhammad Murad on 31 Rajab [regnal] year 24 (20 July 1651).

    There is a transfer from an 'Ala' al-Din to a Mu'in al-Din, probably from the period of 'Alamgir. There is an inspection note by an 'Abdullah Chalabi dated 9 Jumada I [regnal] year 36 (either 20 December 1662 if this was under Shah Jahan 16 January 1693 if it is 'Alamgir's). There are also seal impressions of Sayyid 'Ali al-Husayni and 'Abdullah from the 'Alamgir period.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the Gulf Cooperation Council has imposed a ban on the importation of Iranian goods to or via its member states.  Some of the member states are enforcing the ban strictly such as Saudi Arabia.  Please check with your shippers on whether you will be able to ship Iranian artworks to the GCC member states.


    Pre-Lot Text

    AN IMPORTANT MANUSCRIPT FROM THE MUGHAL ROYAL LIBRARY