The lozenge-shaped seal of Fath ’Ali Shah Qajar is present on the colophon page. Similar illuminated seal-like cartouches are found on other manuscripts (for a similar image see Muhammad-Hasan Semsar, Gulistan Palace Library, Portfolio of Miniature Paintings and Calligraphy, edited and translated by Karim Emami, Teheran, 2000. p.112).
The opening page of the Qur’an comprises a long text in shikasteh script, bearing the seal of Princess Umm Salma, daughter of Fath ’Ali Shah. The text is dated 1246 AH/1830-1 AD, followed by Umm Salma’s seal impression. Umm Salma is recorded as a naskh scribe who copied Qur’ans and prayer books between 1790 and 1833-4, most of which are in the Gulistan Palace Library in Tehran (see Mehdi Bayani, Ahval va athar-e khawshnavisan, vol.IV, Tehran, 1358, pp.29-40. Her latest dated Qur’an (1249 AH/1833-4 AD), was sold at Sotheby’s 18 October 1995, lot 33).
Best known for his distinctively Persian naskh script, Ahmad al-Nayrizi was active between 1682 and 1739. Originally from the town of Nayriz in Fars, Nayrizi was one of the most important and prolific calligraphers of the late Safavid period. He practised calligraphy under the supervision of Muhammad Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad Nasir Qummi, better known as Agha Ibrahim Qummi, who worked from 1659 to 1707. Sometime in late seventeenth century Nayrizi settled in Isfahan, where Ibrahim Qummi was living, and where he came to the attention of Shah Sultan Husayn (r.1694-1722). The Shah and his court became important patrons of Nayrizi, who is reputed to have commanded large fees for his work; the total income he received over his lifetime is estimated to have reached 60,000 tumans, an incredible sum for the period.
Ahmad al-Nayrizi continued producing work of royal quality for almost two decades, and naskh calligraphers of later generations were proud to associate their skills with him. A further example of his work, Surah Yasin (XXXVI), was sold at Sotheby’s 1 April 2009, lot 11. A single-volume Qu'ran by his hand can be found in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection (see Bayani et al [eds.], The Decorated Word, Vol.IV, 1999, p.128, no.53). For the latest work on the calligrapher see: M.H. Semsar, 'Ahmad Nayrizi' The Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, vol.VII, Tehran, 1998, pp.100-108 and N.Safwat, The Art of the Pen, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, 1996, pp.212-13).
Fath 'Ali Shah
Fath 'Ali Shah was the second ruler of the Qajar dynasty. Born in 1771, he succeeded his uncle Agha Muhammad in 1797, and reigned until his death in 1834. This was a time of enormous change both at home and abroad. The European powers were competing for the riches of the East and the associated trade, and were keen to foster political and commercial ties in the Middle East and especially South and East Asia. Britain, France and almost all the other countries of Europe were engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, which lent a military and strategic significance to their potential alliances in the East.
There are two Qur’ans in the Gulistan Palace Library, Tehran, which, like the present Qur’an, bear illuminated cartouches with the name of Fath ‘Ali Shah written in the outer margins of the text. A further related Qur’an also dedicated to Fath ‘Ali Shah was sold in these rooms 6 October 2010, lot 22.