Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures | 06 December 2017

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Lot no.


Nizami Ganjavi, Makhsan al-Asrar , signed Shah Qasim , in persian


Est: £12000–15000

Nizami Ganjavi, Makhsan al-Asrar (Treasury of Secrets), signed Shah Qasim , in persian, on gold-speckled polished paper [probably Tabriz, Safavid Persia, c. 1550]

72 leaves (plus 2 contemporary endleaves at front), text copied on cream-coloured polished paper lightly sprinkled in gold, with wider margins mounted in thicker paper dyed in different shades of yellow, pink, blue, green and larger gold speckles, double column, ruled in red, blue and gold for 11 lines of elegant black nasta'liq, headings in white against gold banners, catch-words, double-page polychrome frontispiece with lavish gilt vines adorning dark blue panels around the text, 58 illuminated chapter headings and decorations, one illuminated miniature depicting a bearded figure in turban (probably the prophet) standing before a mosque as a holy man on the roof calls for prayer, with an open Qur'an on book stand visible in the entrance, also visible is a man standing on the roof facing the sky (possibly calling out for prayer), early water-stain to fols. 15v & 16r, some small chips with loss of paint to miniature skillfully restored in a later hand, outer edge of miniature a little darkened, a few small ink stains or spots, small ownership stamp ('JJS') to front endleaf, small inscription to second endleaf dating 1524 AD, edges painted in blue, 195 by 120mm.; eighteenth-century red morocco, central arabesque medallions and corner-pieces stamped in blind, resewn, rebacked and edges repaired in later morocco, ruled in gold, covers a little rubbed, small horizontal tear (repaired) to upper cover

Text: The Makhsan al-Asrar is a collection of twenty theological and philosophical discourses, being Nizami's earliest work and the only epic in his Panj Ganj (Five Treasures, also known as Khamsa ) that is didactic instead of romantic. The text draws heavily on Sanai Ghaznavi's (d.1131 AD) Haqiqat al-Haqiqa (Garden of Truth), a monumental poem on Sufism, often considered the first work to use the qasidah (ode), ghazal (lyric) and masnavi (rhyming couplets) styles to express philosophical ideas in verse. Nizami adopts the masnavi style in this work as well as the sufi ideologies presented in the Haqiqat . Each of the discourses in the Makhsan al-Asrar are presented in three structurally equal parts: the first being theoretical, followed by an exemplar and ending with a conclusion. As well as surpassing Sanai's legacy, Nizami's aim was to transcend secular court literature by presenting this didactic and philosophical text in poetic form.

The style of illumination and manuscript production here is very similar to a copy of Hafti's Layla O Majnun in the Hermitage Collection, St. Petersburg, copied by the calligrapher Mahmud Naysaburi in Herat,1562 AD (A. Adamova, Persian Manuscripts, Paintings and Drawings, 2012, p.287). Both these copies share the aesthetic of coloured card margins around the text and lines of text written both horizontally and on the diagonal, allowing triangular and rectangular areas to be filled with polychrome decorations. Another similar manuscript was also copied by Naysaburi in Tabriz in 1544 AD that follows a similar pattern, indicating that this style of manuscript illumination was popular in both Herat and Tabriz in the sixteenth century and the closeness of the calligraphy and decoration strongly suggests that the present calligrapher Shah Qasim and Naysaburi worked in the same court workshops in Tabriz.

Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures

Wednesday 06 December 2017, 2.00pm

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