Isma'il Jalayir (d. ca. 1868-73) was the son Hajj Muhammad Zaman Khan Jalayir of Khorassan, who was a follower of a Sufi Sheikh of the Dhahabiya order called Muhammad Isma'il Dhabihullah, after whom Jalayir was named. After he graduated from the Dar al-Funun, of which he has been dubbed 'the most gifted alumnus' (R.W. Ferrier (ed.), The Arts of Persia, London, 1989, p. 231), he became an instructor there and his highly individualistic style found favour with Nasir al-Din Shah. At least two portraits of the Shah by Jalayir are known (one of which sold in these Rooms, 29 April 2003, lot 185). Many features of Jalayir's life remain unsubstantiated but it has been suggested both that he was a user of opium and that he ultimately went mad.
A dream-like, otherworldly quality which characterizes Jalayir's work is bought out here in the surreal contrast both in scale and nature between the bold calligraphy and the small-scale world of the background which is full of avian and floral motifs. Tight background details appear in several of Jalayir's works and are amongst the most distinctive aspect of his idiosyncratic style.
Though slightly more compact than some of works, the style, content and decoration of this calligraphic panel are typical of the Jalayir's gulzar style. It is particularly interesting to be able to see his initial workings where his fluid drawing, sureness of line and balanced design are, if anything, more apparent than in a finished work. For similar examples of calligraphic works by Jalayir, see Toby Falk (ed.), Treasures of Islam, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1985, pp.190-191. Another example sold in these Rooms, 23 April 1996, lot 102. More recently two examples have sold at Sotheby's, 12 October 2004, lot 30 and 31. A full scale oil portrait of a nobleman sold in these Rooms, 13 April 2010, lot 150.