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Frontispiece to a Khamsa (Quintet) by Nizami (d.1209)

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 30

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At A Glance

  • Period

    April 21, 1509 (19 Dhu'l-Hijja 915 A.H.) and 1527-1528 (934 A.H.)
  • Geography

    Possibly Isfahan, Iran
  • Material

    Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
  • Dimension

    H x W: 28.2 x 17.8 cm (11 1/8 x 7 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Description

    Manuscript; Khamsa (Quintet) by Nizami; Persian in black nasta'liq script; illuminated headings in blue and white; 405 folios with a double-page frontispiece (fols. 1 verso, 2 recto), 5 sarlawhs (fols. 34 verso,125 verso,189 verso, 260 verso, 354 verso), 26 paintings (17 verso, 32 verso, 44 recto, 48 recto, 52 verso, 62 recto, 82 recto, 92 recto, 108 verso, 115 verso, 137 recto, 150 verso, 171 verso, 180 recto, 201 verso, 207 verso, 210 verso, 218 recto, 253 recto, 279 recto, 293 verso, 305 recto, 328 verso, 341 recto, 369 recto, 388 verso) and 2 dated colophons (fols. 125 and 405 recto); seals (fols.1 and 405 recto); inscriptions (fols. 1 recto, 125 recto, 405 recto); standard page: 4 columns, 19 lines of text.
    Binding: The manuscript is bound in a lacquer binding decorated with a central scalloped medallion, and doublures of paper.
  • Inscriptions

    Fol.1 recto: "The Khamsa of the shaykh of shaykhs, Shaykh Nizami, was purchased from his lordship Mirza [b.]; Mirza, Muhammad Ali-Naqi, the date of the beginning of the month of Rabi' II in the city of Isfahan in the quarter of Ahmadabad. Written by the least slave Muhammad Kafi."
    Fol. 1 recto: "God the most powerful, most sublime said: "O Muhammad, just you and me: I created creation for your sake." The prophet, peace be upon him, said "just you and me: I abandoned creation for your sake." (Hadith)
    "There appears in the hadith: A man came to His Highness and said, " I have sworn to fast until the Day of Judgement," and [the Prophet], peace be upon him, said, "Fast except on the two feasts, because Husayn was killed on Monday."
    Fol. 125 recto: Colophon: "The book known as Khusraw va Shirin was finished by the aid of God the most sublime, the munificent lord, and by divine guidance on Monday the nineteenth of the holy month of Dhu'l-Hijja in the year [A.H.] nine hundred and fifteen [A.D., April 21, 1509]. Peace and prayer upon the best of his creation Muhammad and his family. Praise to God the Lord of the universe."
    Fol. 405 recto: "This noble copy was finished by the aid of the sublime lord, the gentle, from the words of the great poet, proof of learned men and examplar of scholars, Majuddin Ilyas, known as Shaykh Nizami of Ganja, God bless him and forgive him, at the tomb of the deceased Maulana Husamuddin Ibrahim. May God bless his spirit. The year [A.H.] 934 [A.D. 1527-28].
    Seals: fol.1 recto (oval) Muhammad Ashraf...has hope for cure; (oval) his slave, the hopeful Gayumarth; (Square) Abdul-Rahim. I confide my cause unto God; [From Sura XL:44]. Fol. 405 recto (square) Abdul-Rahim. I confide my cause unto God. [From Sura XL: 44] [A.H.] 1250 [A.D. 1834-35]; (oval) [illegible].
    -(glued to the inner front book cover) clipping from Meyer-Riefstahl 1923 sale, Lot 130 with notations
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "Avril 1923"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "H. Vever no. 4 London"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "Collection Meyer Riefstahl (Vever)"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "8" inscribed in a circle
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "rs. rxx a bia"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "ro.oia"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "C apz[px]--"
    -(on clipping) in pencil, circled, "no. 4 Londres"
    -(on clipping) round sticker, "4" in pencil
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "V. no. 90 -- Marteau Vever -- Pl. LXXI -- (Meyer Riefstahl calligraphié par Mohammed Ukami d' Ispahan)
    pour Mirza Mohammed Naki de la même ville
    -(1507 -- 1527")
    -(on clipping) in pencil, "V. OS Vig. hex (1930)"(recto of folio) in pencil , "7 ro.oia avril at Nno. 130 -- v. os"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, ancienne collon Meyer Riefstahl 1923"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "1931 Londres £ 606 [word erased]
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, " H. VEVER" encircled
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, " 5" encircled
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, " 32 [Miniat]"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil "M. S. C. 10"
    -(affixed to recto of folio) round, white sticker "4" written in pencil
    -(recto of folio) in pencil "H. VEVER" underlined
    -(affixed to recto of folio) rectangular white sticker, with "International Exhibition Persian Art London 1931" printed as border, "VV4" written in black ink in the interior
    -(affixed to recto of folio) "Douanes Exposition, Paris" printed on white sticker with scalloped edges
    -(recto of folio) in pencil " Khamsa de Nizami (complet)
    6 poèmes daté 915 = 1510 5 sarlows + 27 miniatures
    ecriture Nastaliq calligraphié par Mohammad Ukami d'Isfahan (1507-1527)
    pourMohammed Naki, de la même ville"
    -(affixed to folio) round sticker, "172" written in blue ink
    -(affixed to folio) round sticker, "5" written in blue ink
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "daté 915 = 1507"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "904"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "(no. 90 de Marteau et Vever)"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "37" circled
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "payé apzpx"
    -(recto of folio) in pencil, "payé apzpx"
  • Provenance

    ?- ?
    Mirza Muhammad Ali-Naqi
    Before 1914-?
    Philipp Walter Schulz (1864-1920), method of acquisition unknown [2]
    From at least 1913-1923
    Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl (1880-1936), method of acquisition unknown [3]
    Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Charles Vignier, "Liquidation de Biens Meyer-Riefstahl: Ayant fait l'objet d'une mesure de séquestre de guerre, première vente," April 23-24, 1923, lot 130 [4]
    Likely from 1923-1942
    Henri Vever (1854-1942), method of acquisition unknown [5]
    Jeanne Louise Monthiers (1861-1947), bequest of Henri Vever [6]
    Francois Mautin (1907-2003), bequest of Jeanne Louise Monthiers and Henri Vever [7]
    From 1986
    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased from Francois Mautin [8]
    [1] See undated note inscription on flyleaf in manuscript. See also Glenn D. Lowry and Milo Cleveland Beach with Roya Marefat and Wheeler M. Thackston, "An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection" [exhibition catalogue] (Washington, D.C. and Seattle: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and University of Washington Press, 1986), 217-219.
    [2] See Philipp Walter Schulz, "Die persisch-islamische Miniaturmalerei" [book] (Leipzig: Verlag von Karl W. Hiersemann, 1914), pl. 76-78. Schulz likely sold the manuscript to Meyer Riefstahl before the text was published in 1914 (see note 3). Philipp Walter Schulz was a wealthy scholar that focused his studies on Islamic book arts. In 1900, the Museum of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in Leipzig displayed Schulz's personal collection; this exhibition began a life-long affiliation between Schulz and the museum.
    [3] Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl was a German-American art historian specializing in medieval Islamic art. At the beginning of World War I, Meyer Riefstahl relocated from Paris, France to New York City, where he eventually became a professor at the Institute of Fine Arts.
    Meyer Riefstahl left his art collection in Paris and the French government sequestered the collection as an "Enemy Alien Asset." The collection was sold in two auctions, the first in 1923 and the second in 1925. This manuscript was in Meyer Riefstahl's collection by 1913, see "Georges Marteau and Henri Vever, "Miniatures persanes" [exhibition catalogue] (Paris: Bibliothèque d'Art et Archéologie, 1913), no. 90, plate LXXI. Meyer Riefstahl likely purchased the manuscript from Schulz before Schulz published the text cited in note 2 and when Marteau and Vever were finalizing their publication.
    [4] See Hôtel Drouot, Charles Vignier, "Liquidation de Biens Meyer-Riefstahl: Ayant fait l'objet d'une mesure de séquestre de guerre, première vente," [auction catalogue] (Paris: Hôtel Drouot, April 23-24, 1923) lot 130. The manuscript is described as "Khamsa de Nizami complet, c'est-à-dire contenant les six poèmes. Écrit en nastaliq de premier ordre. Pas de nom de calligraphe." A clipping from this auction catalogue is glued inside the book cover of the manuscript.
    [5] An accomplished French jeweler and collector, Henri Vever (1854-1942) amassed a large and impressive collection of works of art during his lifetime. His holdings in Japanese prints and Islamic arts of the books, especially from Iran and India, were among the most important assembled in the early twentieth century.
    It is likely that Vever purchased the manauscript from the Meyer-Riefstahl sequestration sale (see notes 2 and 3), as in the interior of the book cover, there is a note "H. Vever -- Avril 1923." Vever
    owned the manuscript by 1931, when he loaned it for exhibition. See "International Exhibition of Persian Art, 7 January 1931 to 7 March 1931" [exhibition catalogue] (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1931), no, 718E. The manuscript is described as "MANUSCRIPT: Nizami's Khamsa copied partly in 915 A.H./1510 A.D. and partly in 934 A.H./1527 A.D. in the shrine of Maulana Nizami al-din Ibrahim. Two unwans, 27 miniatures." This manuscript was in Vever's collection at the time of his death in 1942.
    [6] Upon Henri Vever's death on September 25, 1942, his wife, Jeanne Louise Monthiers inherited the manuscript. See exhibits F and G of Agreement of Purchase and Sale of the Henri Vever Collection, January 9, 1986, copy in object file.
    [7] Upon the death of Jeanne Louise Monthiers, as stipulated in the will of Henri Vever, the family's assets were divided evenly between his two grandchildren. His only grandson, Francois Mautin inherited the collection known as "The Henri Vever Collection of Oriental Art and Manuscripts Including Persian and Indian Art and Manuscripts." This manuscript is part of that collection. See exhibits F and G as cited in note 6.
    [8] The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased the entirety of the collection from Francois Mautin on January 9, 1986. See purchase agreement, copy in object file.
    Research completed May 4, 2022.
  • Collection

    Arthur M. Sackler Collection
  • Exhibition History

    The Art of Painting a Story: Narrative Images from Iran (December 22, 1991 to May 10, 1992)
    Crushed Lapis and Burnished Gold: The Art of Illumination (June 9 to December 8, 1991)
    A Jeweler's Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection (November 20, 1988 to April 30, 1989)
    International Exhibition of Persian Art (January 7 to March 7, 1931)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Francois Mautin (1907-2003)
    Jeanne Louise Monthiers (1861-1947)
    Henri Vever (1854-1942)
    Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl (1880-1936)
    Philipp Walter Schulz
    Mirza Muhammad
  • Origin

    Possibly Isfahan, Iran
  • Credit Line

    Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

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