Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
IntroductioncalligraphyAbstract DesignArts of the Bookpage 1page 2page 3The Art of the Object

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This border presents a unified theme of artists engaged in a range of activities connected with preparing books and was created in the workshop of emperor Jahangir, the ruler of India (reigned 1605–27), to frame a page of calligraphy signed by the renowned sixteenth–century Persian calligrapher Mir Ali.

The illustrations provide an invaluable documentation of the various procedures involved in producing albums for the Mughal court. Commencing with the upper right and moving counterclockwise we first observe a worker preparing paper by energetically smoothing it with a heavy burnisher. Next, a bookbinder, surrounded by the tools of his trade, stamps designs onto a leather book cover. In the left margin are two woodworkers, one filing the edges of a bound book that is held together by a wooden clamp, and a second working with a saw to prepare a book stand. Then we see an artist smelting gold by blowing through a rod to intensify a fire in an open container; by his side are tools for pounding it into gold leaf. The last figure depicts a calligrapher, working at a low table and seen dipping his brush into a blue–and–white inkwell. The enclosed page of calligraphy consists of an aphorism, of the type much favored by both the Mughals and the Persians.


Folio of Calligraphy, from the Gulshan Album
Calligraphy by Mir Ali, Iran, ca. 1550
Borders, India, ca. 1600–10
ink, color, and gold on paper
Page: 42.5 x 26.6 cm.
Purchase F1954.116


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