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    Sale 7571

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    8 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 190

    A SAFAVID CALLIGRAPHIC TOMB COVER

    IRAN, DATED AH 1110/1698-9 AD

    Price Realised  

    A SAFAVID CALLIGRAPHIC TOMB COVER
    IRAN, DATED AH 1110/1698-9 AD
    Of rectangular form, the crimson silk ground woven with calligraphy which reads nasr min 'allah wa fath qarib, with three large cross-panels composed of calligraphic registers in yellow, green, cream and black each with a wide central register surrounded by minor ones with the bismallah and the date 1110, one hole, areas of staining and fraying, particularly towards the edges
    107¾ x 29½in. (273.6 x 75cm.)


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    The inscriptions are repetitions of: The Basmalah, Qur'an XLVIII, Sura al-Fath, v.1 and Qur'an LXI, Sura al-Saff, parts of v.13.

    Textiles of this kind were made as tomb covers or hangings as tributes for the shrines of honoured or holy men. The textile from which this panel originated may have had an applied border running vertically along the side.

    There are at least two other known pieces in which the date is given next to an invocation to Husayn. The appearance of the date next to an invocation is reminiscent of a number of seals with similar inscriptions in which the name of the bearer is concealed in an invocation to one of the 12 Imams or God. However, since the dates of the three pieces with date next to an invocation to Husayn were all made during the reign of Shah Sultan Husayn (r. 1694-1722), it is difficult to conclude whether the invocation refers to the one who commissioned it (i.e. Sultan Husayn), the craftsman (who bore the name Husayn) or of course Husayn the third Imam.

    The rest of the inscriptions on this textile are also very relevant. That from Sura al-Fath (v.1) which translates 'Lo! We have given thee a signal victory', refers to both physical and spiritual victory and is therefore also appropriate for a tomb. However, in reference to a very similar textile in the Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyon, Anthony Welch suggests that it was probably rather chosen for its calligraphic potential (Anthony Welch, Calligraphy in the Arts of the Muslim World, New York, 1979, no. 64, pp. 154-55). The second word in Arabic here is fathna and is of the same root as the word fatha which appears in the inscription from Sura al-Saff (v.13) and thus the two together create a visually cohesive effect.

    Another similar panel is in the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar (Jon Thompson, Silk 13th to 18th Centuries, Doha, 2004, no.10, pp.46-49). A very similar panel was also recently on the London market.

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