The inscriptions are:
On the finial: A couplet on the martyrdom of Imam Husayn
On the main pierced panel: Qur'an CXII, Sura al-Ikhlas
On the upper drop-shaped element: A call to God to bless 'The Fourteen Innocents'
Repeated around the pierced box: Ya Muhammad (O Muhammad)
Around the lower drop-shaped element: The first part of Muhtasham Kashani's Tarji'-band marthiya (elegy) for Imam Husayn
This 'alam compares to those of a group in the Tanavoli collection (James Allan and Brian Gilmour, Persian Steel. The Tanavoli Collection, Oxford, 2000, p. 278). Although those that Allan and Gilmour mention within this group have smaller ogival units above (which ours lacks), they are formed of two standards joined at right angles to make a cruciform design. One of the examples used by Allan belongs to a mosque in Isfahan and is dated AH 1117/1705-06 AD, making it almost contemporary with the present example. As well as in form, that 'alam is very similar to ours in the ground behind the inscription. Whereas in some examples, such as that sold in these Rooms, 8 April 2008, lot 201, the ground on which the inscription is cut is made of neat, controlled spirals, the present 'alam instead has a ground of short, straight, sporadically arranged elements.
Allan quotes the Russian visitor Kotov who visited Isfahan in 1624-25 somewhat earlier than this 'alam was produced. He described the standards in some detail, mentioning the iron examples at the top of long bending poles that swayed through the assembled people as they moved (P. M. Kemp (trans. and ed.), Russian Travellers to India and Persia [1624-1798], Kotov, Yefremov, Danibegov, Delhi, 1959, p.25, quoted in Allan, op.cit., p.259). The tall upper "spear" on the present 'alam is presumably designed to sway in the same way as the earlier ones did on the top of their wooden poles.
Unusually this 'alam is of brass and bronze rather than steel. Bronze dragon head finials are however known - a 17th century example was sold in these Rooms, 15 October 2002, lot 200. It may be the case that this example was produced somewhere away from the great steel working centre of Isfahan. This 'alam is almost certainly the product of the same workshop as one offered in these Rooms, 6 October 2009, lot 133. That example was signed Muhammad Taqi. Together signed and dated, the two form a very useful insight into the production of 'alams in the early 18th century. Complete 'alams, such as these put into context many of the fragmentary examples that have been published and are known. Many of those have long screw fixtures at one end or the other; this gives the full, intended impact. There appears to have been a revival of cut steel work in the early 18th century during the reign of Shah Sultan Husayn and this 'alam although perhaps not a direct product, may well have been a result of that.