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TWO DÉCOUPÉ FOLIOS FROM A POETRY ANTHOLOGY
TWO DÉCOUPÉ FOLIOS FROM A POETRY ANTHOLOGY
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TWO DÉCOUPÉ FOLIOS FROM A POETRY ANTHOLOGY

PROBABLY HERAT, MID 16TH CENTURY

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TWO DÉCOUPÉ FOLIOS FROM A POETRY ANTHOLOGY
PROBABLY HERAT, MID 16TH CENTURY
Persian manuscript on black paper, each of the folios with lines of elegant découpé nasta'liq in brown and gold, first folio with fine illuminated headpiece, second with an illuminated heading at end, within borders of lotus vine and cartouches filled with arabesque, verso of one folio with further nasta'liq lines, verso of the other with later owners' marks and stamps, mounted on card
Text panel 5 1/8 x 2 ½in. (31.1 x 6.5cm.); each folio 9 ¼ x 5 5/8in. (23.4 x 14.2cm.)

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Lot Essay

The great bibliophile and last Timurid ruler, Sultan Husayn Baiqara (r.1470-1506), chose the leading calligrapher Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi to copy his own poetry. One complete copy dated 1485 in in Paris (Bibl. Nat., Paris, inv.no. Suppl.Turc.993) while a second, by the same calligrapher, is dated Ramadan 905 (April-May 1500 AD) and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv.no.1982.120.1). It is however the third copy, also written by Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi, as attested by the signature on a page that has recently been donated to the Cincinnati Art Museum, which is the most remarkable since the entire volume is executed in découpé. The majority of the volume is in the Türk ve Islam Muzesi in Istanbul, including the opening double page (published Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision, exhibition catalogue, Washington D.C., 1989, no.148, pp.268-269 and 359). A caption in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum said that an annotation on a flyleaf of the Istanbul volume confirmed that the artist who executed the decoupage was 'Abd Allah, the pre-eminent craftsman working in this technique at the time (Sultan 'Ali of Mashhad, Master of nasta'liq, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001). Further leaves from the same volume are in Western museum and private collections; two sold very successfully in the Sotheby’s sale of the Stuart Cary Welch Collection (6 April 2011, lots 41 and 42).

The art of working very elegant nasta'liq calligraphy in the découpage is one that was perfected in Herat in the late 15th century under Timurid rule and which continued through into the 16th century, becoming popular in Ottoman Turkey as well, as demonstrated in a page with three couplets attributed to Fakhri bin Wali in the second half of the 16th century (Islamic Calligraphy, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1988, no.40, pp.140-141). The technical mastery required is considerable. The central calligraphic panels of the present leaf, from an unknown manuscript, are closely related to the Sultan Husayn Baiqara manuscript in technique, style, layout and scale. The margins, while they differ from the gold flecked coloured margins of the Husayni manuscript, are also consistent with a Herat attribution of the early 16th century. That technique continued to be practiced after the end of Timurid rule at a very high level in Herat is demonstrated by a further very similar leaf from a manuscript of poetry and calligraphy written for Husayn Khan Shamlu, the Safavid governor of Herat who died in 1534-5 AD (Anthony Welch, Calligraphy and the Arts of the Muslim World, New York, 1979, no.73, pp.172-173).

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