The Conferences of the Birds

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The encounter between fashion design and a mystical Persian poem: Conversation with Moroccan fashion designer Said Mahrouf

Interview

The Conference of the Birds, also known as The Language of the Birds is certainly the most celebrated work of the twelfth-century Persian poet, Farid al-Din Attar.
It tells the story of a flock of birds that set out to seek their king and god, the Simurgh. Only thirty of them survive the perilous path, on which they traverse seven dangerous valleys and reach their ultimate destination: a lake. There they see their image mirrored in the water and recognize themselves as the very god they were seeking.This mystical poem clearly lends itself to numerous interpretations and, even if the author is not himself a Sufi,, the tale is full of Sufi references and meaning.
The mystical and evocative nature of the plot has its visual counterpart in an exceptional medieval…

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On display in the Treasures Gallery: Humayun’s meeting with Shah Tahmasp from The British Library Blog

In conjunction with the British Library’s Learning Team, we recently held a very successful study day:  Mughal India: Art and Culture. To coincide with the event, we have installed three new ʻMughalʼ manuscripts in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. These are: A Royal copy of Nizami’s ‘Five poems’, dating from Herat, ca.1494 (Or. 6810, f. 3r), A mother rebukes her arrogant son, a copy of Saʻdi’s Būstān dated at Agra, 1629 (Add. 27262, f. 145r) and, the subject of my post today, Humayun received by the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp of Iran, from Abu’l-Fazl’s Akbarnāmah, dating from Agra, ca. 1602-3 (Or. 12988, f. 98r).

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2017/04/on-display-in-the-treasures-gallery-humayuns-meeting-with-shah-tahmasp.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

A History of Mughal Cuisine through Cookbooks from The Heritage Lab

544322_10151555158737139_1234962013_nPreparation of betel for the Sultan Ghiyath al-Din, from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)coffee_route_06_0h_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_2_of_4_high_res_bl_751430_mincing__lg-1024x714i_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_3_of_4_high_res_bl_751422_detail_c_lg-800x445j_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_4_of_4_high_res_bl_751431_2_lg-1024x527o_sp4l_high_res_bl_751431_sherbet_detail3_smshah-tahmasp-i-and-mughal-emperor-humayun-meet-mural-chehel-sotoun-palace-isfahansweetsa70459bc-b17d-4140-8df6-f16ebdd9600egoldspoonmughal

On any given weekend, my head is usually occupied with the thoughts of food. The taste buds have been working over time for a year now – ever since I started following my friend Richa’s amazing food stories. Turns out that Kings and Royalty had a thing for food too. The cookbooks of Akbar, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb give us an idea of the history of Mughal cuisine. Apart from royal food, you also get to look into their kitchen! For instance, the Ain-i-Akbari mentions that during the reign of Akbar, there was a Minister for Kitchen! He had his own budget, an independent accounts department and ran an army of cooks, tasters, attendants, bearers and other sundry designations. It is true – there was a time when people really lived to eat (and life sounded like Harry Potter books)!

More: http://www.theheritagelab.in/mughal-recipe-history/

The Enigmatic Image: Curious Subjects in Indian Art from LACMA UNFRAMED by Stephen Markel, Senior Research Curator South Asian art

For many viewers, the subject of most Indian paintings is understandable even without a specialist’s knowledge of the identity and history of the figures portrayed. For example, images of a princely couple listening to music on a palace terrace can be appreciated without needing to know the historical or literary identity of the protagonists. Beyond this basic intelligibility, however, many works feature complex subject matter, symbolic nuances, and/or compositional substructures that require an in-depth explanation to understand their layers of meaning.

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Allegories

Inspired by the iconography and mythology of Western divinity and sovereignty featured in the European prints brought to India, the Mughals and other Islamic dynasties of India soon appropriated the visual attributes of the divine and the regal for their own glorification. Chief among these emulated personages were Solomon and David, kings of ancient Israel; Orpheus and the philosopher Plato, both legendary musicians and poets of ancient Greece; and Majnun, the famous Arabic poet and unconsummated paramour of his beloved Layla. The unifying thread in the stories of these influential personalities was that each was graced with the ability to tame and control animals by means of his musical ability and/or spiritual authority.

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More: http://unframed.lacma.org/2017/01/05/enigmatic-image-curious-subjects-indian-art

A Mughal Shahnamah – British Library Blog

By Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Collections

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/06/a-mughal-shahnamah.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

This copy of the Shāhnāmah is thought to date originally from the 15th century. Unfortunately it has no colophon but it was extensively refurbished in India at the beginning of the 17th century when the 90 illustrations were added. These are numbered consecutively 1-91, only lacking no. 37 which, together with a gap of about 150 verses, is missing at the beginning of the story of Bīzhan and Manīzhah between folios 201v and 202r. The manuscript was altered again in the first half of the 18th century when elaborate paper guards and markers were added. The magnificent decorated binding, however, dates from the early 17th century.

Razmnamah: the Persian Mahabharata by Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Studies, British Library Blog

One of our most important Mughal manuscripts is Or.12076, the Razmnāmah (ʻBook of Warʼ), copied in AH 1007 (1598/99) and containing the concluding part, sections 14-18, of the Persian translation of the Sanskrit epic the Mahābhārata. It is currently on display at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, in the exhibition Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts curated by Amy S. Landau of the Walters Art Museum Baltimore where it was originally exhibited. As a result of the Library’s participation in the exhibition the whole volume has now been digitised and is available online for everyone to look at — whether they are lucky enough to be able to visit the exhibition or not!

See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/04/razmnamah-the-persian-mahabharata.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.7d6yQFss.dpuf

Artistic visions of the Delhi Zenana by J.P. Losty Curator of Visual Arts, Emeritus – British Library Blog

Three interesting portraits on ivory of Mughal ladies of the imperial zenana were acquired by the Visual Arts section in 2012, now numbered Add.Or.5719-5721.  All three were mounted in one frame with pasted down inscriptions below relating to the subject and the artist, while attached to the back of the frame were three envelopes which once contained the miniatures and which were written further particulars.  The paintings were sold in Delhi in these envelopes in 1900 by Sultan Ahmad Khan, who styles himself the son of one painter Muhammad Fazl Khan and grandson of another painter Muhammad ‘Azim, both of whom are named as artists in the inscriptions.  The purchaser must have put them into their present gilt frame and fortunately also preserved the various inscriptions and attestations.  All three are supposed to be portraits of some of the wives of the Mughal Emperor Akbar II (r. 1806-37).  For a more correct appreciation of who they might be, we rely on that invaluable on-line resource, The Royal Ark.  None of these ladies’ names unfortunately appears among the numerous wives of Akbar II, but that does not necessarily detract from the validity of the inscriptions of artistic interest.

 

See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2014/12/artistic-visions-delhi-zenana.html#sthash.XpaRep9e.dpuf