Illuminated Manuscript Quatrain from Sufi poem Mantiq al-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds) | 16th century, Central Asia, Bukhara.

£12,000.00 GBP

An illuminated quatrain signed by Mir ‘Ali Harawi (or atelier), Central Asia, Bukhara, 16th century. Incredibly rare.

Attar (ca. 1142–1220)  is one of the most celebrated poets of Sufi literature and inspired the work of many later mystical poets. 

The story is as follows: The birds assemble to select a king so that they can live more harmoniously. Among them, the hoopoe, who was the ambassador sent by Sulaiman to the Queen of Sheba, considers the Simurgh, or a Persian mythical bird, which lives behind Mount Qaf, to be the most worthy of this title. When the other birds make excuses to avoid making a decision, the hoopoe answers each bird satisfactorily by telling anecdotes, and when they complain about the severity and harshness of the journey to Mount Qaf, the hoopoe tries to persuade them. Finally, the hoopoe succeeds in convincing the birds to undertake the journey to meet the Simurgh. The birds strive to traverse seven valleys: quest, love, gnosis, contentment, unity, wonder, and poverty. Finally, only thirty birds reach the abode of the Simurgh, and there each one sees his/her reflection in the celestial bird. Thus, thirty birds see the Simurgh as none other than themselves. In this way, they finally achieve self-annihilation. 

This story is an allegorical work illustrating the quest of Sufism; the birds are a metaphor for men who pursue the Sufi path of God, the hoopoe for the pir (Sufi master), the Simurgh for the Divine, and the birds’ journey the Sufi path.

It is incredibly rare to find any Quatrain’s from this time period relating to this iconic poem on the market.

Description and Condition:

Poetry, ink and opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, 4 lines. of fine black nasta’liq in poly-lobed cartouches in reserve on a cobalt blue background decorated with tchi clouds and dense floral scrolls. Near fine to fine.