Persian Verses and Crafts in the Late Timurid and Safavid Periods (ティムール朝末~サファヴィー朝期におけるペルシア語詩と工芸品)

神田 惟

This dissertation sets out to explore the various ways in which Persian verses were integrated into the material culture of Iran between the late fifteenth and the late seventeenth century, with an emphasis on the artistic, literary, social, political, and religious contexts surrounding the development of crafts inscribed with Persian poems. It investigates the cultural background of the application of poetical inscriptions to the surface of craft objects by examining the types, contents, contexts, and qualities of the poetical inscriptions on crafts in the late Timurid and Safavid periods as well as the primary sources in relation to the makers of such crafts. In so doing, it discusses the implications and functions of such poetical inscriptions.

     Rather than adopting a dynastic framework and focusing only on the Safavid period (1501–1722), this research covers the period between the late fifteenth and the late seventeenth century. It does so, firstly, because stylistic and technical developments in craft objects do not correspond to periods of dynastic change. Secondly, while it has often been suggested in the field of Persian literature that the late fifteenth century saw an increasing interest in the art of versification that extended beyond the royal court to the general population, there are virtually no art historical studies to date that attempt to understand this phenomenon through a comprehensive analysis of different types of craft objects.

     This dissertation is composed of an introduction, five themed chapters with figures, and a conclusion, as well as five appendices comprising a catalogue raisonné of Iranian underglaze-painted ceramic vessels inscribed with Persian verses, c. 1450–1700 (Appendix 1); catalogue raisonné of Iranian underglaze-painted ceramic tombstones inscribed with Persian verses, from 1609 to 1677–8 (Appendix 2); catalogue raisonné of Iranian luster-painted ceramic tombstones, from 1476–7 to 1560 (Appendix 3); catalogue raisonné of Iranian candleholders inscribed with Persian verses, c. 1550–1650 (Appendix 4); and list of Persian verses cited as inscriptions on Iranian candleholders, c. 1550–1650 (Appendix 5). One of the strengths of this study is that it represents a comprehensive examination of the ceramic, metal, and textile craftworks upon which Persian verses were inscribed, and also includes an in-depth analysis of contemporaneous primary sources in Persian, both published and unpublished. 

     Chapter One examines unpublished and published primary sources in Persian such as inshāʾs (guides on letter-writing for scribes) and taẕkirahs (anthologies of selected verses of poets accompanied by their biographical notes), which attest to the possible situations where craftsmen would have appreciated Persian poetry, not only as readers or spectators but also as composers, from the late fifteenth to the late seventeenth century. It can be extrapolated from these sources that craftsmen became familiar with Persian verses not simply for their own pleasure, but to comply with social etiquette in communicating with their potential clients. In addition, a review of the taẕkirahs indicates that Herat, Tabriz, Isfahan, and Kirman were cities where groups of craftsmen-cum-poets were active. It also suggests that the rubāʿī was one of the most frequently recorded types of verses composed by these craftsmen-cum-poets and the topics of these verses ranged from the agony of love to the praising of a patron.

     Chapter Two provides a comprehensive analysis of Persian poetry inscribed upon ceramic vessels and ceramic tombstones datable between the late fifteenth and the late seventeenth century. It attempts to contribute to knowledge on the reception, circulation, and social function of Persian poetry during this period of time in Iran. The major findings in this chapter can be summarized as follows. First, there is a strong connection between the contents of the poetical inscriptions and materiality of the vessels (i.e., shape, material, or function of the vessels) executed in the underglaze painting technique; amongst such pieces are those with misspellings, which provide evidence for the growth of appreciation of Persian poetry among craftsmen not only in its written form, but also quite possibly in its orally transmitted form. Second, the analysis of Persian verses inscribed on underglaze-painted and luster-painted tombstones confirms the almost simultaneous use of different types of verse during this period of time: traditional Persian verses, chosen with the utmost deliberation for the funerary context, and specially composed verses that include abjad (i.e., numerical values attached to letters) numerals and/or the name of the deceased. Lastly, through the examination of the hitherto undeciphered verses inscribed on the luster-painted tombstone of Shaykh Jamāl al-Dīn Masʿūd al-Muʿarrif al-Shīrāzī who died on 25 Jumada II 967h/March 23, 1560 (the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany, inv. no. 1960.64), it becomes clear that the poem in question can be identified as a qiṭʿa specially composed for the deceased by Muḥtasham Kāshānī (d. 1588), a renowned court poet who spent his entire life in Kashan. By making the best use of abjad numerals, Muḥtasham versified this qiṭʿa to commemorate the death of a figure with whom he might have been personally acquainted, which suggests that it was either inscribed on this tombstone by the poet himself, or by a craftsman to whom his poem had been transmitted. The identification of this poem is particularly important for three reasons. First, it implies that luster-painted ceramics were probably produced in Kashan during the early Safavid period. Second, it suggests that there is indeed potential for using epitaphs as historical sources, as the poem in question sheds valuable light on the editing process of Haft Dīvān, as well as on the social context of the increasingly popular chronogram poems composed in Iran during this period. Third, it indicates that there was cooperation between people from different backgrounds, in particular, the potter and the poet, within the funerary industry.

     Chapter Three focuses on poetically inscribed metalwork, in particular, brass candle holders produced in Iran between the mid-sixteenth and the mid-seventeenth century. It particularly examines the hitherto unknown brass candlestick at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (inv. no. MW.152.1999) and compares it with related pieces. This object is subjected to in-depth analysis because its endowment inscriptions have the potential to shed some light on the cultural and religious settings in which poetically inscribed brass candle holders were produced and their intended use. From the analysis of the surface decorations and inscriptions on the candlestick in question, it can be argued that this object was produced in Iran circa 1600 and was donated to the mausoleum of Imām Mūsā al-Kāẓim in Iraq around the same time or later. This identification then leads to a discussion on the possible motivations for the endowments of the Doha candlestick and a comparable piece by Safavid bureaucrats to this Iraqi mausoleum. It is possible that these pieces, transferred from Iran to Iraq, testify to the endowers’ political loyalty to the dynasty by their tangible support of the mausoleum of Imām Mūsā al-Kāẓim; another possible alternative explanation is that they reflect the spread of the personal veneration of this particular Imām among the population under the Safavids, following the government’s promotion of “official” Ḥusaynī/Mūsāvī genealogy.

     This chapter also reveals the existence of a group of ready-made brass candle holders, including examples inscribed with Persian verses, which were endowed to the mausolea of the Twelver Shīʿite Imāms in Iran and Iraq around 1560–1610 by figures who had some sort of connection to Kashan, the long-established center of the Twelver Shīʿite population. Furthermore, the chapter provides textual evidence that confirms the father-to-son transmission of skills in poetry and copper-smithing in Kashan during the seventeenth century.

     Chapter Four explores the phenomenon of the permeation of Persian verses into religious architecture by focusing on textiles inscribed with Persian verses that were produced during the Safavid period. It especially concentrates on a poetically inscribed silk covering with figural representations at the Cincinnati Art Museum (inv. no. 1953.124), which has an alleged provenance of the Mausoleum of Imām ʿAlī al-Riżā in Mashhad, and compares it with so-called Ardabil carpets (dated 946h/1539–40), the fragments of Mahan carpet (dated 1067h/1656–57), and the Gulbenkian covering (attributable to the late sixteenth century). An examination of the motifs and the content of the Persian verses on the Cincinnati covering reveals a remarkable congruity between its text, images, and intended place of use, as well as its high quality which might have required the exercise of skilled labor. The degree of this congruity becomes more evident when one compares this covering with the Doha candlestick that is examined in the Chapter Three; it the case of the Doha candlestick, the inscribed verses neither match the engraved motifs nor correspond to the place where it was endowed (i.e., the mausoleum of Imām Mūsā al-Kāẓim) in any way. It can be tentatively concluded that the Cincinnati covering may have been used as a tomb cover, which is most likely to have been placed in a burial place for a member of the Safavids during the late sixteenth century.  

     Chapter Five brings together material and textual evidence on the relationship between poets/poems, craftsmen/crafts, and Twelver Shīʿism in Kashan, a city in north central Iran whose cultural significance in the permeation of Persian verses into material culture during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has, as argued in this dissertation, hitherto been underestimated. This chapter concludes that there was continuity in craft-making, poetry-making, and Twelver Shīʿite belief in Kashan from the medieval to the early modern period. In addition, it suggests that the language used for the commemoration of the Twelver Shīʿite saints and other individuals in Kashan seems to have shifted from Arabic to Persian, and the style of delivery from prose to verse. While it is not possible to determine precisely when these shifts occurred, it is plausible that, by 1600, the use of furnishings with poetical inscriptions in Persian at the mausolea of the Twelver Shīʿite Imāms had become acceptable to a certain degree.

     The conclusion to this dissertation draws together the various strands of evidence and analysis presented in Chapters One to Five. By considering not only the poetical inscriptions on the ceramics, metalwork, and textiles themselves, but also the contemporaneous primary sources in Persian, this dissertation sheds new light on the role of craftsmen and poets in the making of poetically inscribed craft objects during the late Timurid and the Safavid periods.

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