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 Album of Calligraphy
New Acquisitions: 2016

Album of Calligraphy

Made in sixteenth-century Herat Afghanistan, the text of this small, elegant album addresses Sultan Husayn Mirza (reigned 1469–1506), the last Timurid ruler and a celebrated bibliophile who had encouraged the flourishing arts of the book in Herat a century earlier. The rhythmic, deep curves of the text, coupled with the interlinked tops of the letters and words, is characteristic of ta‘liq script. Frequently written diagonally, ta‘liq (literally: “hanging” or “suspended”) delights in fluid, sweeping strokes that expand, contract, and stack to create a dynamic rhythm. Another characteristic is the generously spaced, slightly curved placement of the lines, which appear as if draped across the surface of the folio.

Some scholars have suggested that ta‘liq script was developed in Iran as early as the thirteenth century for chancellery documents: the tightly spaced, interconnected letters and words made it difficult for others to alter the content. By the fifteenth century, chancery clerks from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent were using ta‘liq. Over the decades, the script’s orthographic features became more exaggerated, adding to its calligraphic distinction (as well as its illegibility).

In the sixteenth century, scribes began to use ta‘liq for calligraphic exercises, which were gathered into albums. This album, made up of a variety of colored paper, was signed by Amid al-Mulk, a calligrapher from Herat, in 1573.

Album of Calligraphy
Signed by Amid al-Mulk al-Husayni
Historic Iran, present-day Afghanistan, Herat, A.H. 968/1573
Ink on paper with leather binding
Gift of Nader Ahari, New York City, from the estate of his brother Nasser Ahari

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