Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets

Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 19. Mir 'Ali Shir Nava'i (d.1501), Diwan gharaib al-sighar (Wonders of Childhood), Persia, Timurid, Herat, late 15th-early 16th century.

Mir 'Ali Shir Nava'i (d.1501), Diwan gharaib al-sighar (Wonders of Childhood), Persia, Timurid, Herat, late 15th-early 16th century

Auction Closed

March 31, 12:40 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Lot Details


Chagatay manuscript on cream and coloured paper, 236 pages, 15 lines to the page, written in fine black nasta’liq arranged in two columns with gold and black intercolumnar rules, text within gold, blue and black rules, headings in gold, blue and red, catchwords, fully illuminated opening double page frontispiece in gold and polychrome framing 6 lines of text within cloud bands reserved against pink hatched ground, three further folios with gold and polychrome illuminated headpieces, in gilt stamped brown morocco binding, the doublures of brown morocco with cut-paper filigree-work of interlacing scrolls over blue ground

29.1 by 18.7cm.

Mir ‘Ali Shir Nava’i, also known as Nizam al-Din ‘Ali Shir Herawi, who went by the pen-name Nava’i (‘the melodic’ or ‘musical’) was a famous Timurid writer, poet, patron, politician, musician and composer. Born and raised in the city of Herat, he is remembered in Uzbekistan's history as one of the founding fathers of Uzbek literature and a great contributor to Chagatay works, significantly adding to the development of the eastern Turkish language. Diwan ghara’ib al-sighar (Wonders of Childhood) is recognised as his first of four diwans.

Although the manuscript is not signed, the style of writing is in the style of the eminent scribe Sultan Ali Mashhadi (1453-1520) or perhaps that of one of his top pupils. Mashhadi was the great Persian master calligrapher of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. He spent the majority of this career at the court of Sultan Husayn Bayqara at Herat. He may have spent time at the Bukhara court of the Shaybanid Uzbek Khan after the conquest of Herat, later moving to Mashhad, where he stayed until his death in 1520. Mashhadi’s life is discussed at length by Qadi Ahmad in his treatise on calligraphers and painters. The following extract shows the regard in which he was held: "... the one who carried off the ball of superiority is the cynosure of calligraphers, Maulana Sultan Ali Mashhadi, whose writing is among other writings as the sun is among the other planets. His writing conquered the world and attained such a degree (of perfection) that it seems incredible that anyone could emulate him." (V. Minorsky, Calligraphers and Painters, A Treatise by Qadi Ahmadson of Mir Munshi, Washington, 1959, pp.101-2).

His pupils who went on to become great masters of calligraphy include Sultan Muhammad Nur, Sultan Mohammed Khandan and Mir 'Ali al-Harawi.

Two illustrated and illuminated works by Mir ‘Ali Shir Nava’i, both copied by Sultan Ali al-Mashhadi in Herat, are in the Royal Collection. The Khamsah-yi navai (the Quintet of Navai), dated circa 1492-1615, may have been written by Mashhadi during Nava’i’s lifetime (RCIN 1005032). The Divan’i navai (the Collected Works of Nava’i), dated to circa 1501-10, was written by Mashhadi shortly after Navai’s death in 1501 (RCIN1005033). An illuminated bifolium from a manuscript of the Panj Ganj of Jami with text by Sultan Ali al-Mashhadi, circa 1520, was sold in these rooms, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection, Part One, 6 April 2011, lot 104.

The exceptionally fine illumination on the opening double page of the present lot shares similarities with the illuminated frontispiece of a Bustan of Sa’di, dated 920 AD/ 1514 AD, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. no.1974.294.1). It was copied by Mashhadi’s pupil, Sultan Muhummad Nur, probably in Herat. A closer comparison can be drawn with the illumination in two Qur’ans in the David Khalili collection, attributed to Herat and dated to the late fifteenth/first half sixteenth century (D. James, After Timur. Qur’ans of the 15th and 16th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Vol.III, London, 1992,, 33, pp.118-19, 124-5). The floral decoration in the illuminated panels and the strapwork borders seen on our manuscript frontispiece appear to be typical of the Herat style of this period. The interlacing arabesques in the illuminated triangular panels on the sides of our frontispiece possess a sinuous energy which is lacking in the other comparable examples. An illumination design similar to the two Khalili Collection Qur’ans and to our manuscript can also be seen on a Qur’an copied in 1545 for ‘Abd al-Aziz Khan of Bukhara (r.1540-49), in the Keir Collection (MS.VII.46), Dallas Museum of Art.

An Aqqoyunlu mansucript of Mir Ali-shir Nava'i's poetry was sold in these rooms, 22 April 2015, lot 69.