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Divan of Hafiz

Accession Number: Lilly Library, Near Eastern mss. Hafiz. Divan Persian

Date and location: Thursday, 24 Safar 1258/ April 5 1842, Iran

Author: Hafiz (d. 1390)

Calligrapher: Muhammad Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Mulla "[Najm]"

Binding: Original lacquer “gul-u-bulbul” (flower-nightingale) motif with gold, red, and black decorative frame.

Doblure: Painted scenes on both front and back doublures. The front doublure depicts two men sitting in a room conversing, smoking a long pipe, and reading a book. The back doublure depicts a man and woman sitting in a room the man offers a fruit to the woman, who is smoking a water pipe.

Number of folios: 175 (+1 fly page at beginning)

Dimensions of folios: 17.5 x 10 cm

Dimensions of written surface: 12.8 x 6.4 cm

Number of paintings: See description of doublures above.

This copy of the Divan of Hafiz includes paintings on its doublures. Qajar era paintings are quite distinctive because they recall the high gloss of European oil paintings. Similarly, Qajar artists at this time began to experiment with three dimensionality and perspective.

Description:

Hafiz is one of the most celebrated poets of Persian literature. His Divan consists in a compilation of his major poems, editions of which vary in content and include between 573 to 994 individual lyric poems (ghazals).

The arts of the Qajar period are characterized by the frequent use of oil paints, lacquer, and an attempt to depict three dimensions and a more realistic natural world. The two most popular decorative motifs in book bindings at this time were the flower bouquet and gul-u-bulbul (flower-nightingale) designs. The metaphorical relationship of the nightingale (active lover) and flower (passive beloved) frequently utilized in Persian poetry, especially by Hafiz, thus serves as an appropriate theme for the binding covering this manuscript.

The doublures of the binding are also oil painted with a lacquer finish. The front doublure depicts Hafiz offering his work to a patron—so this is essentially an author’s portrait. The back doublure depicts a man offering a woman an orange, in an indoor setting similar to the first composition.

The manuscript—which is dedicated in its colophon to a merchant, Mirza Muhammad Mahdi— is comprised of beige color chain-laid paper with no marginal decorations with the exception of the first two facing pages. The first page opens with a decorative sarloh and marginal floral decorations in gold, blue, and red. Each word in the text on these two pages is surrounded by gold cloud-bands. Many religious and secular texts usually bear such decorations around the text frames of the first two pages, while the text in the remainder of the work is left unilluminated. Much within the Persian poetical tradition, nastaliq script is used arranged in two columns per page.

For examples of similar gul-u-bulbul motif bindings, see Diba, Royal Persian Paintings, 229 (cat. 71); Golestan Palace Library, 72 (image 34); McWilliams and Roxburgh, Traces of the Calligrapher, 41 (fig. 26).

Other paintings of Hafiz can be found in: Schmitz, Islamic and Indian Manuscripts and Paintings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, fig. 246; and Oriental Miniatures of Abu Raihon Beruni Institute of Orientology of the UzSSR Academy of Sciences, cat. 69.