131 • JAM-i-JAM

autograph manuscript written by Mowlana Shir Ali
with four miniatures by Kemal al-Din Behzad

863 ah / 1459 AD
31 × 20 cm


The opening page includes one description of the manuscript, two valuations, 15 library notes and 13 seal impressions.

Out of the 15 library notes, there are 4 of Shah Jahan (including one in the description of the manuscript), 8 of ‘Alamgir and 4 of Muhammad Shah’s periods.

Out of the 13 seal impressions, there are 7 of Shah Jahan’s officials, one of ‘Alamgir, 4 of Muhammad Shah’s and one blackened (undecipherable).

Among the notes, is a description of the manuscript as [The divan?] of Awhadi, fifty folios copied by Shir ‘Ali with four illustrations by Behzad and was inspected in the month of Rabi’ I, [the regnal] year 2 (March–April 1629).

The scribe Shir ‘Ali is recorded as a calligrapher at the court of the Timurid Prince Baysunghur in Herat.

His recorded works are dated between 853 (AD 1449–50) and 872 (AD 1467–8) and include a copy of the Zafar nameh in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which he copied for Sultan Husayn Bayqara, a divan of poems and a few calligraphic pages in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul.

The inspection notes belonging to Shah Jahan period are dated between 1629 and 1659 together with 8 seal impressions of superintendents and librarians.

Under ‘Alamgir, a note dated 12 June 1659 indicates that ‘Alamgir had viewed it with the seal impression (the only one of ‘Alamgir period) of the superintendent of the Royal Library.  The manuscript was inspected once but a few transfers were made from one librarian to another between 1665 and 1697.  Under Muhammad Shah, it was inspected 4 times between 1719 and 1738 accompanied by the seal impressions of the librarians.

It was valued once at 100 rupees in words, and once in khatt-e siyaq at possibly 102 (?) rupees.

We are grateful to Manijeh Bayani for her translations of the seals, the other inscriptions in the miniatures, and the colophon.

The manuscript was re-margined, re-bound and furnished with a fine lacquer binding in India in the 16th century – Provenance: Mughal Imperial Library

Behzad (1441–1535) was eighteen at the time he painted these four paintings, while still a student of Mirak Naqqash, a court painter of Sultan Abu Sa’id Mirza (r.1451–69) in Herat.  They are therefore much earlier than any of the other works attributed to him, which are generally dated between 1480 and 1495.  Behzad’s two main patrons in Herat became the poet Ali Sher Nava’i and the Sultan who succeeded Abu Sa’id Mirza, Husayn Bayqara (r.1469–1506).

Apart from the precocious talent evident in these paintings it is the humour in the details of the fourth miniature that carries the hall-mark of Behzad, a feature un-matched in the works of other painters.

The manuscript has forty-seven folios and is complete.  The gold-flecked margins are in eight colours: buff, pink, yellow, pale blue and darker blue, green, eau-de-nil and black.

folios 1A.
Mughal Imperial seals.

folios 1B. & 2A.
Double page court scene with inscriptions.

folios 2B. & 3A.
Double page illuminated frontispiece of outstandingly fine quality.

All the pages of text have four columns of elegant nastaliq calligraphy, eight of which only are without panels of illumination.  The illuminations are all of a quality and elegance that is typical of royal Timurid manuscripts.

folio 27A.
King and two courtiers on horseback encounter two dervishes on foot.  Signature: the work of Behzad.

folio 30B.
A picnic celebration.

folio 47B.
Colophon shaped as the Cup of Jamshid.