Persian Poetry, Painting & Patronage: Illustrations in a Sixteenth-century Masterpiece

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Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1998 - Literary Criticism - 79 pages
Commissioned by Prince Sultan Ibrahim Mirza in 1556, five Iranian court calligraphers devoted nine years to transcribing the poetic text of the great Persian classic, the Haft awrang (Seven Thrones), by the mystical poet Abdul-Rahman Jami. Then a team of gifted artists undertook the illumination and illustration of the manuscript. The masterpiece they created—housed today in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and known as the Freer Jami—is a sumptuous volume of some three hundred folios of elegant cursive script with richly decorated margins, thousands of multicolored section dividers, nine illuminated headings and nine colophons that begin and end the main divisions of the text, and twenty-nine full-scale paintings. This gorgeous book reproduces to scale the Freer Jami paintings, discusses each in detail, and introduces the manuscript’s patron and the artist’s painting style and meaning.

Marianna Shreve Simpson describes the cultural and artistic milieu in which Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s great manuscript was created and explores the special style and imagery of the illustrations. She then considers the poetic content and mystical significance of the related passages, how the paintings interpret the passages, and the unique and innovative aspects of each painting. In the themes and images of the paintings, Simpson finds, are clues to the message of the manuscript as a whole. This book also includes a timeline of milestones in the prince’s life and in the production of his Haft awrang.

Copublished with the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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About the author (1998)

Marianna Shreve Simpson is assistant director for curatorial affairs and curator of Islamic art at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. She is the author of Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s Haft awrang: A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth-Century Iran, published by Yale University Press—a full account of the poetic and artistic history of the Freer Jami.

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