Calligraphy by Darah Shikoh

Sample of Calligraphy by Prince Dara Shikoh | Aga Khan Museum | Click image for larger view.

1 April 2011. I have obtained an Urdu translation of this piece of calligraphy through the kind help of India’s ambassador to Ukraine, His Excellency Mr. Jyoti Pande, who contacted the Afghan embassy there to decipher the text.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed a growing interest in art and the art of collecting in the three “gunpowder” empires, beginning with the Safavids in Iran and followed by the Ottomans and Mughals. Not only did more artists exhibit a hitherto rare sense of self-awareness by increasingly signing their works, but the royal and wealthy patrons who compiled or commissioned the albums had the chance to express their own taste and connoisseurship through their collecting. These extraordinary codices were filled with specimens of calligraphy, painting and drawing, including single-page, finished compositions as well as elements of illustrated manuscripts and calligraphy exercises. Artists’ and calligraphers’ works were recognized within the albums for their individual talents and styles – sometimes by glosses added by the patron himself. This folio contains writing samples by a Mughal prince whose royal training would have included learning the art of calligraphy. The Persian verses are signed by Shah Jahan’s preferred son, Muhammad Dara Shikuh (1615-59 CE) and dated 1041 H/1631-32 CE at Burhanpur in the Deccan; they were probably written while the Mughals were campaigning in that region. This sample was later mounted into an eighteenth-century album, another presumed page of which was copied in Burhanpur in 1631 CE and now belongs to the British Museum. — Aga Khan Museum


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