AN EXCEPTIONAL ILLUMINATED QUR’AN, PERSIA, SAFAVID, FIRST HALF 16TH CENTURY
Arabic manuscript on paper, 432 leaves plus 1 fly-leaf, 10 lines to the page, written in naskh in black ink, occasionally within clouds against a gold ground, ruled in green, gold, red and blue, verses separated by gold and polychrome rosettes, surah headings in white rounded cursive against a gold ground within polychrome cartouches, gold and polychrome verse markers in the margins, juz markers written in riqa’ in the margins, later marginal texts in nasta’liq within clouds against a gold ground, f.1b and f.2a with an illuminated frontispiece with surah al-Fatihah (I), f.2b with an illuminated heading marking the start of surah al-Baqarah (II) and the text written within clouds against a gold ground decorated with polychrome scrolls, f.431a and f.432a with a finispiece bifolium with a prayer written in muhaqqaq in white ink against a blue or gold ground decorated with polychrome scrolls, in light brown stamped binding
text panel: 21.3 by 13cm.
leaf: 33 by 21cm.
The margins clean, the illumination of the incipit possibly with some repainitng to the blue, a tear running on the right hand side border, which is stll attached but quite fragile, some rubbing and flaking, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
N. Safwat, A Collector’s Eye. Islamic calligraphy in Qur’ans and other manuscripts, London 2010, no.1, pp.24-29.
This is a fine Safavid Qur’an from the first half of the sixteenth century. Although an illuminated panel at the end of the Qur’an mentions the date 842 AH (1438 AD), the text and certainly the illumination are surely a century later. The decoration of the illuminated frontispiece is very similar to that found in a Qur’an now in the Topkapi Palace Library, dated 921 AH/1516 AD (inv.no. TIEM232, published in Farhad & Rettig 2016, n.42, p.266). In both manuscripts the text is framed by clouds and written against a gold ground decorated by polychrome interlacing flowers. The borders are lavishly decorated with gold scrolls against a cobalt blue ground.
The text was probably written first and illuminated some decades later. There are no traces of the mistar and the ten lines of fine elongated naskh are balanced, with less than a centimetre between two lines. At some point an interlinear Persian translation written in red nasta’liq was added below each naskh line. This was later rubbed off and some pages have been illuminated with gold.
The marginal notes are on benefits of reciting each chapter and are all quoted from Shi’a Imams, probably added later when the manuscript reached the Deccan. F.432b bears several ownership notes and seals. One of the notes records that the Qur’an was in a library by 9 jumadi II 1018 AH (9 September 1609 AD), and a stamp of a later owner named Muhammad Muhsin Khan is impressed over it.
Two other Indian seal impressions give the names of Sadiq Khan Niknam and Muhiyy al-Din ‘Ali Khan. Sadiq Khan Niknam, also known as Shams al-Dawlah Lutfullah Khan Mutahawwir Jang (d.1752) was an important historical figure of the Deccan. He came to the court of Shah ‘Alam I Bahadur (r.1707-12) and rose to the rank of Amir. He then joined Farrukh-Siyar (r.1713-19) and was appointed to administer the capital. He was made Khan-e saman under Muhammad Shah (r.1719-48) and given the title Shams al-Dawlah Lutfullah Khan Mutahawwir Jang. The seals present on this manuscript give the dates ‘9 Rabi’ I, [regnal] year 9’ (which corresponds to 25 October 1727 AD); ‘14 regnal year’ (1732-33 AD) and ‘26 regnal year’ (1744-45 AD). As none bears the name of an emperor, the Qur’an may have been in his private library.