AN ILLUSTRATED DOUBLE-SIDED FOLIO FROM THE NAHJ AL-FARADIS: THE ANGEL OF BOUNTY AND THE ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND HEAVEN, OF PEARLS
AN ILLUSTRATED DOUBLE-SIDED FOLIO FROM THE NAHJ AL-FARADIS: THE ANGEL OF BOUNTY AND THE ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND HEAVEN, OF PEARLS
AN ILLUSTRATED DOUBLE-SIDED FOLIO FROM THE NAHJ AL-FARADIS: THE ANGEL OF BOUNTY AND THE ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND HEAVEN, OF PEARLS
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Two folios from the Magnificent Timurid manuscript, the Nahj al-FaradisText:The text is taken from sections seven and eight of the first chapter of Mahmud ibn `Ali al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis (The Paths of Paradise) (Eleanor Sims, 2014, p.93). The original work is lengthy, over 400 pages, originally composed in Khwarazmian Turkish ca. 1357–60, under the Golden Horde Khanate. It is an extensive work, based on the Hadith (verbal traditions) of the Prophet which it “creatively subsumes [….] into an entertaining novella” (Gruber, 2008, p.277). An early part of it concerns the first stage of the journey al-‘Isra, which is described in the Qur’an as ending at the ‘Further Mosque’, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (Qur’an 17, al-‘Isra, v.1: Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Further Mosque, the precincts of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing). From there, as part of the same journey, according to the Hadith, the Prophet began the mi’raj, accompanied by the angel Jibril or Gabriel to the Christians. This journey took the Prophet to tiers of Heavens of increasing holiness, and thereafter to a series of Hells, each reserved for a different type of sinner.The text of the Mi’rajnama, (Mi’rajnama available online), the Mongol text whose best-known manuscript was the pictorial model for the present manuscript, was adapted from that of the relevant section of the Nahj al-Faradis (Gruber, 2008 p.351). Christiane Gruber notes that 'It is, with slight alterations, the mi`raj-tale included in the Nahj al-Faradis. These textual changes were made at the time of the manuscript’s production and most likely were inflected by Shahrukh’s religious programs, his attempts to quench internal power struggles, and his modus operandi in the field of international diplomacy'. Commission: The manuscript from which the following two lots come originally opened with an illuminated shamsa in the name of its patron, the Timurid ruler Sultan Abu Sa`id Gurkan, who ruled in Herat from 1458-1469. He was the son of Sultan Muhammad, and grandson of Miranshah, himself the third son of Timur (Sims, 2014, pp.88-90). The manuscript itself follows very closely indeed that of the Mi’rajnama; that manuscript, written for Sultan Abu Sa`id’s great uncle Shah Rukh, a little over twenty years earlier, must have been in the Timurid royal scriptorium as the Nahj al-Faradis was being prepared. It seems probable that the Mi’rajnama survived in the Timurid library at Herat, through the Qara Quyunlu invasion and occupation and city's recapture under Sultan Abu Sa`id (Gruber, 2008, p.331).The reasons for the reversion of the text to the earlier Nahj al-Faradis are not clear, but the illustrations follow almost exactly the same sequence. Each painting in the present two folios is taken almost verbatim, although sometimes with a little more flair in the present manuscript, from the Shah Rukh earlier version, especially in the paintings signed by the lead artist on the project, Sultan `Ali al-Sultani. The pictorial cycle:The images follow very closely the text into which they are worked. They work hard to represent as many details as possible that are mentioned in the text. The facial styles and clothing can be seen to relate closely to other known Timurid manuscripts; the architecture, where it is found similarly has many parallels in early Timurid painting. In her publication of the Paris Mi’rajnama, containing the same sequence of paintings alongside a slightly altered text, Christiane Gruber devotes one chapter of her monograph to the influences from Sino-Central Asian Buddhist Art, seen in this manuscript. The wonderful gold clouds that dominate the blue sky are clearly Chinese imports. Even more clearly, the polycephalous angel on f.32r (the Nahj al-Faradis version is in the David Collection) (Sims, 2014, pl.5, p.124) clearly relates to depictions of Aryavalokitesvara, while the depiction of the angel who is half fire and half snow, Gruber relates through its seated position to depictions of the bodhisattva Dizang/Ksitigarbha (Gruber, 2008, pp.314-6). These two manuscripts, based on material that had never been illustrated before, drew on a number of different sources. It is too tempting not to mention another possible source, although at first it seems far-fetched. The story of the Prophet's nocturnal journey also has similarities with the narrative of Saint John in his vision of the Apocalypse as described in the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible. The journey of the Prophet starts in Jerusalem; that of Saint John ends with a vision of the New Jerusalem. In both, the narrator travels, accompanied by and encountering a variety of angels; both are divided into series of different similar encounters. For a variety of reasons, illustrated manuscripts of the Book of Revelation, and associated commentaries, became very popular in Western Europe, especially Britain, in the 13th and 14th centuries. A number of spectacular versions were produced, heavily illustrated, depicting the complex visions of Saint John. These have survived in various religious and secular libraries of the West. In some of the best known, including the “Trinity” (Trinity College, Cambridge, ms.R.16.2) and “Lambeth” (Lambeth Palace Library, London, ms.209, for example f.30r) Narratives of the Apocalypse, combine text with horizontal compositions on a blue ground with angels, often at one side, depicted with long brightly coloured wings, one raised and extended into the centre of the painting. The blue ground is also sometimes scattered with gold stars around the figures, as in the present lot. There is a clear visual echo in the way some subjects are illustrated in the Mi’rajnama and the Nahj al-Faradis. One depiction in the David Collection, Copenhagen manuscript shows without doubt a visual link; the angel with four heads. While the arrangement is in the Asian Buddhist polycephalous manner, the choice of the four heads, angel, lion, bull and eagle, are clearly also the symbols of the four evangelists (Sims, 2014, pls.6 and 7, pp.126 and 127).The founder of the dynasty, Timur, was very warmly thought of in the West in the early 15th century. He had, at the battle of Ankara in 1402, comprehensively defeated the forces of the Ottoman Bayezid I who had only recently, in 1396, crushed the crusading armies of the west. At Ankara, as an added bonus to the West, Timur captured the Sultan. Immediately after the battle of Ankara, Timur wrote offering friendship to various western monarchs, receiving a very warm response from England whose king, Henry IV, addressed him as amico nostro (our friend) (Knobler, 1995, pp.341-349, esp. pp.343-4). “Fake news” stories appeared almost immediately in England that indicated that Timur had captured Jerusalem – the chronicler Thomas Walsingham (d. circa 1422) even reporting that Timur and sixty thousand followers converted to Christianity after the capture. Embassies were exchanged, which would most certainly have included gifts. Could an illuminated narrative of the apocalypse have formed part of such an exchange of gifts? Henry IV had, after all, just inherited the extensive library of his predecessor, King Richard II, who was well-known for his artistic patronage. Considerable amounts have been written on these two manuscripts by the leading scholars in the field. The recent studies by Christiane Gruber on the Mi’rajnama and by Eleanor Sims on the Nahj al-Faradis provide links to all other relevant publications for the following two lots.PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION
AN ILLUSTRATED DOUBLE-SIDED FOLIO FROM THE NAHJ AL-FARADIS: THE ANGEL OF BOUNTY AND THE ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND HEAVEN OF PEARLS

COMMISSIONED BY SULTAN ABU SA’ID GURKAN, TIMURID HERAT, CIRCA 1465

Details
AN ILLUSTRATED DOUBLE-SIDED FOLIO FROM THE NAHJ AL-FARADIS: THE ANGEL OF BOUNTY AND THE ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND HEAVEN OF PEARLS
COMMISSIONED BY SULTAN ABU SA’ID GURKAN, TIMURID HERAT, CIRCA 1465
Uyghur manuscript, opaque pigments and gold on paper, recto with the Prophet arriving at the secound heaven, of pearls, 6 ll. above and 1l. below, verso with the Angel of Death, 3 ll. above and 2ll. below
Folio 16 ¼ x 11 7/8in. (41.4 x 30.3cm.); illustration recto 5 ¼ x 7in. (13.9 x 18cm.), illustration verso 6 3/8 x 7in. (16.4 x 18cm.)
Provenance
Comissioned for the Timurid ruler Sultan Abu Sa'id Gurkan.
Private Collection, UK
Christie's, London, Private sale, 2016.

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Lot Essay

Recto:
The Prophet Muhammad, mounted on al-Buraq, arrives at the Second Heaven
The text narrates: Then passing that [place], we arrived at the second heaven. I saw that it was created of white pearls (aq inci) and its width was five hundred years’ way. Gabriel proceeded and knocked [at the door]. A voice asked: “Who are you?” He said: “I am Gabriel and with me is Muhammad, the Prophet of God.” The angel, filled with joy, immediately opened the heaven’s gate. We entered and greeted that angel, and that angel returned the greeting and said: “Oh Muhammad, tonight celebrate the graces of the Lord Most High.” Twenty thousand angels resembling him were standing in rows. They all greeted us (Gruber, 2008, p.359).

The artist here, while generally following the Mi’rajnama original very closely, has reduced the eight angels (which represent twenty divisions of angels mentioned in the text) even further, to six, by eliminating the two in the back row.


Verso:
The Prophet Muhammad, mounted on al-Buraq, meets the Angel of Bounty
Guided by Gabriel, having entered the second heaven, the first person that the Prophet meets is an enormous winged angel, seated on a throne. The text describes: Passing that [place], I arrived close to a large angel. “What is this angel?” I then asked. Gabriel answered: “This is the angel that provides daily sustenance to all creature” (Gruber, 2008, p.359).

An earlier publication of the Mi’rajnama identified this scene as Gabriel introducing the Prophet to the angel of Bounty, Azrael (Seguy, 1977, pl.12). However that subject was formerly depicted in f.21 in the Mi’rajnama, now lacking. The Nahj al-Faradis version of that scene, clearly different from the present one, is now in the Sarikhani Collection (Sims, 2014, pl.3, p.122).

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