© The Aga Khan Museum
© The Aga Khan Museum
Click on the image to zoom
This painting is another, larger composition of the traditional bazm, or courtly feasting-cum-reception scene, with which the pictorial program in Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s Divan begins (see AKM282.19). Once again, the feast takes place in an idyllic outdoor setting, with the verdant and flowering landscape tilted upwards, in the typical mode of classical Persian painting, as if seen from bird’s eye perspective. The picture plane here is further expanded by its irregular frame and by the hillside and trees—including two bending cypresses and a plane tree with birds and even a bird’s nest in its upper branches—which extend into the upper margin. The gold and silver-painted marginal decoration also reinforces the garden theme, with ducks flying through twisted clouds at the top of the page and flowers growing in the inner margin. That this is not totally a paradise on earth, however, is indicated by the lion attacking a gazelle in the bottom margin and by the snarling dragon whose body slithers through a tree at lower right.
The composition’s principal figure is the young and beautifully-attired prince seated cross-legged on a folded carpet alongside a winding stream. He holds a small gold wine cup in his left hand and reaches out to take a piece of fruit from the servant kneeling in front. A trio of musicians provide entertainment—one plays a tambourine, another an oud or lute, and the third a chang or harp. Various young servants and older, bearded courtiers also seem to be listening to and enjoying the music, although the lad underneath the plane tree seems to have already grown tired of the festivities and has fallen asleep.
Whatever their role, the participants in this outdoor fête are stylishly attired and all except the tambourine player wear the typical Safavid turban, consisting of cloth, sometimes shot with gold, wrapped around a cap with a projecting red baton called a taj. Somewhat more distinctive is the multi-coloured headgear of the servant offering the fruit bowl, while the prince’s turban, along with that of the rather rotund bearded courtier to the left side, is decorated with gold chains and turban pins fitted with a tall plume (from either an eagle or owl) and feather brush.
Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s poems, authored under the pen name of Jahi, belong to a genre of “realist” poetry that developed in Iran during the 16th-century (see AKM282.1). Unlike Persian poets of previous eras, whose love imagery was infused with often complex mystical meaning, Safavid writers concentrated on the expression of actual human emotions in colloquial language. For instance, the ghazal or amatory poem that this painting accompanies refers quite directly to both the physical and sexual attributes of the individual (evidently a male) whom Jahi desires and just as directly to his despair that person would have no interest in someone like him. In fact, Jahi describes himself as having become majnun, that is, having lost his mind, knowing that he will never possess his heart’s desire. In correlating such sentiments with the bazm illustration here, one could infer that the prince on the seated carpet is either the one whom Jahi characterizes at the start of his poem as a “jasmine . . . in possession of a blossom-like mouth [and] flower-like body” or at the end of the poem as mad. The painting thus anticipated the manuscript’s fifth illustration of “Majnun in the wilderness” (see AKM282.36).
— Marianna Shreve Simpson, in collaboration with Chad Kia
. The stream, along with other details in the painting and in the margins, was originally silver, now oxidized with age.
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.