BMO Free Wednesdays: Enjoy free admission every Wednesday from 4-8 pm. Presented by BMO Financial Group.

Click on the image to zoom

On Display
Manuscript of Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami
  • Accession Number:AKM270
  • Place:Shiraz, Iran
  • Dimensions:33.5 cm x 21.3 cm x 5.7 cm
  • Date:1527
  • Materials and Technique:Opaque watercolour, gold, ink, paper

The Khamsa (Quintet) is a posthumous collection of five narrative poems composed by Nizami of Ganja (a city in present-day Azerbaijan) (died 1209), one of the greatest romantic poets of Persian literature. This manuscript comprises 401 folios with a four-column, gold-ruled text format containing 19 lines of nasta'liq Persian script; headings appear in blue nasta'liq against a gilded background of spiral scrolls and are embellished with orange, yellow and green flowers. Twenty-seven miniatures illustrate selected episodes from each of the five poems, the final one signed by the artist, “Tasvir-i Qiyath al-Mudhahhib” (“The Reproduction of Qiyath the Gilder”). Although the colophon names a scribe, Pir Husayn ibn Pir Hasan al-Katib al-Shirazi, it does not identify a patron. Welch has suggested that this book may have been produced for a wealthy individual of high standing or perhaps for the governor of Shiraz, as no Safavid prince lived in Shiraz during the period of production for the manuscript (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 76). The dark leather gilded binding is contemporary with the codex and includes verses in praise of Nizami on its spine. All of the illustrations in this manuscript of the Khamsa are believed to have been executed by the same painter, Qiyath al-Mudhahhib (“Qiyath the Gilder”), and build from a tradition of painting and calligraphy developed in Shiraz in the 14th and 15th centuries (ibid., p. 74).

Anthony Welch and Stuart Cary Welch, Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. London, 1982. ISBN: 9780801498824

Note: This online resource is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. We are committed to improving this information and will revise and update knowledge about this object as it becomes available.


Get connected. Stay engaged. Sign up for the latest updates from the Aga Khan Museum