A Safavid diagram illustrating the seal of prophecy (muhri nubuwat), impressed on the shoulder of the Prophet Muhammad Persia, 16th/early 17th Century
Lot 15
A Safavid diagram illustrating the seal of prophecy (muhri nubuwat), impressed on the shoulder of the Prophet Muhammad Persia, 16th/early 17th Century
Sold for £19,375 (US$ 24,635) inc. premium

Lot Details

Footnotes

  • Historical Background:

    This diagram is an extremely rare depiction of the seal of prophecy which has survived from the Safavid period. As Massumeh Farhad observes, 'the Sufi brotherhood and craft fraternities were prominent centres of religious, economics and political vigour and stability. These voluntary associations became a common feature of town life and coordinated and directed much of the religious and public charity activities of the communities. A vital form of social insurance in life and death, mystic brotherhoods contributed to the spiritual and material needs of its members. The Safavid order was one such successful Sufi brotherhood which had prospered under Isma'il's charismatic ancestor Shaykh Safi al-Din (died 1334).' (See M. Farhad and S. Bagci, Falnama: The Book of Omens, Washington 2009, p. 249).

    The devotees of this order gave gifts in the form of endowments (waqf) to shrines and this piece could very well have been such a gift. In comparison, the Prophet Muhammad was commemorated in neighbouring Ottoman Turkey by the Hilyeh, which describes his physical attributes including his broad shoulders, and this seal of prophecy impressed on the shoulders of the Prophet would have served a similar purpose except that it added a Sufi dimension to the interpretation of macrocosm and microcosm.

    The text:

    1. Verses from the Qur'an.
    2. The Revelations, al-tajjali, written on the outside of the central arcs.
    3. The Names of God and the Signs of the Zodiac written inside the central arcs.
    4. The words The Divine Universal Intellect, Spirit, Soul and Nature each written within one of the four smaller arcs.
    5. The name of the Prophet Muhammad written in black ink surrounded by the names of Fatimah, 'Ali, al-Hasan and al-Husain written in gold and the words Body, Hot, Cold, Dry and Wet written in black.
    6. An Arabic quatrain written diagonally in the top right corner stresses the importance of the letter nun (written before the letter 'ayn) and that it is also the name of the Prophet.
    The Persian verses written diagonally in the top left corner are by the poet Sana'i, one of which translates: The foundation of the nine celestial globes is under [his] step,/The sovereignty of the seven climes is under [his] seal.
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