Calligraphy by Sultan cAli Mashhadi
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
H. (each leaf) 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm), W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
Purchase, Richard S. Perkins and Margaret Mushekian Gifts, 1982 (1982.120.1)
This unusually appealing manuscript in Chaghatay Turkish was copied at Herat for its royal author, Sultan Husain Baiqara (14381506), the last great Timurid ruler, a notable poet, statesman, and patron of the arts and literature. The superb nastacliq is the work of Sultan Husain's most gifted calligrapher, Sultan cAli of Mashhad, who completed it in 1500, six years before Herat and its ruler fell to Shah Ismacil, founder of the Safavid dynasty.
The joyous borders are masterpieces of ornamental painting. If not attributable to the great painter Bihzad, they are nonetheless unique in their lyrical washes of color and vigorously lyrical design. Among the more stunningly inventive are several pairs of zoomorphic fantasies. Boldly rhythmic, with surprising animal, bird, and dragon masks, they bring to mind the incident often described in Muslim literature related to Alexander the Great: Supposedly, during the course of his apocryphal Eastern adventures, Alexander came upon the oracular talking tee, the waqwaq, from the foliage of which sprouted masks similar to those seen here, warning him against trying to conquer India.