An album page of découpé calligraphy, copied by 'Ali and signed by the artist Muhammad Hasan The Deccan Sultanates, probably Bijapur, circa 1630-40

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Lot 235
An album page of découpé calligraphy, copied by 'Ali and signed by the artist Muhammad Hasan
The Deccan Sultanates, probably Bijapur, circa 1630-40

Sold for £ 42,000 (US$ 54,311) inc. premium
An album page of découpé calligraphy, copied by 'Ali and signed by the artist Muhammad Hasan
The Deccan Sultanates, probably Bijapur, circa 1630-40
the text composed of a quatrain in Arabic written horizontally in elegant nasta'liq script in white on a black ground decorated with an intertwining floral motif in white, on paper, slightly trimmed and rubbed otherwise in good condition, inner margins ruled in colours and gold, outer borders of gold-sprinkled cream-coloured paper, signed in Arabic katabahu 'Ali and kati'uha Muhammad Hasan, in mount, original backboards with the stamp of the dealer E. Beghian, label of the International Persian Art Exhibition, London 1931, chalked numbers corresponding to other pieces lent by Beghian
200 x 100 mm.; album page 315 x 200 mm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private UK collection, inherited by the present owner circa 1980.

    E. Beghian of 37 Berkeley Street, London W1, was the lender of a number of pieces, from manuscripts and miniatures to arms and armour and other objects, to the International Exhibition of Persian Art held at the Royal Academy in London in 1931. The numbers on the backboards correspond with two Persian miniatures in the exhibition catalogue, and there is nothing else amongst the Beghian pieces which corresponds to these two découpé album pages. It therefore appears that Beghian reused the backboards and frames from other, Persian, pieces when he sold the present lot and the one following (lot 236).

    The quatrain is addressed to Qanbar, the slave freed by the Imam 'Ali who was put to death by al-Hajjaj because of his loyalty to his master. The first two verses translate as follows:

    Oh Qanbar, you were mine yesterday, and today you have become like me.

    The verses combine elements of Shi'ism, mysticism and Sufism which would have been recited at the court in Bijapur in the 17th century. Shi'ism was the state religion, and Bijapur was the centre of Sufism. Under the Adil Shahi dynasty, and in particular the reigns of Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627) and Muhammad Adil Shah (1627-57), the city became the centre of learning known as the 'second Baghdad', and most of the sultans were men of letters who patronized teachers and scholars. The royal library employed sixty calligraphers, illuminators and binders, and it would have been the most likely place for the production of high-quality pieces such as these two album pages.

    Dr. Barbara Brend observes that the choice of white cut-out paper on a black ground reminds one of the technique of mother-of-pearl inlaid into basalt in Bidar and the whole tradition of Bidri metalwork where silver is used on a dark ground. An unusual feature is that the background double scroll is given as much weight as the script. Similar scrolls can be found in manuscript illumination and carpet designs: compare a page of illumination (f.2b) from the Kulliyat of Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Sultan, Golconda, circa 1590-1600 in the Salar Jang Museum, Hyderabad (see M. Zebrowski, Deccani Painting, London 1983, p. 159, fig. 121). Also compare the scroll work to that on a silk velvet carpet, Mughal, circa 1620 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (see S. C. Welch, India: Art and Culture 1300–1900, New York 1985, pp. 206-207, no. 136).
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