Illuminated Page, Poetry of Omar Khayyam

Maker: Unknown<br /> Culture: Iranian (Persian); Qajar<br /> Title: Illuminated Page with the Poetry of Omar Khayyam<br /> Date Made: 19th century<br /> Type: Drawing<br /> Materials: opaque water base colors and gold on parchment<br /> Place Made: Iran (Persia)<br /> Measurements: Sheet: 11 x 7 1/2 in.; 27.94 x 19.05 cm<br /> Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Evan M. Wilson (Leila Fosburgh, class of 1934)<br /> Accession Number: 1990:2-23<br /> Collection: Smith College Museum of Art

Maker: Unknown
Culture: Iranian (Persian); Qajar
Title: Illuminated Page with the Poetry of Omar Khayyam
Date Made: 19th century
Type: Drawing
Materials: opaque water base colors and gold on parchment
Place Made: Iran (Persia)
Measurements: Sheet: 11 x 7 1/2 in.; 27.94 x 19.05 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Evan M. Wilson (Leila Fosburgh, class of 1934)
Accession Number: 1990:2-23
Collection: Smith College Museum of Art

This page, and SC 1990:2-22, appear to have been made as a double frontispiece for a manuscript of Omar Khayyam’s scientific treatises. Known in the west primarily as a poet, Khayyam (d. 1123), a native of Nishapur, was above all a noted philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. The central ogival frames and their finials contain information on the manuscript and its author while the border cartouches give a sampling of Khayyam’s quatrains. Although most of the poetry does not belong to the standard corpus of the poet, one quatrain is among his most famous:

“I was in the potter’s shop last night,
And saw two thousand jugs, some speaking, some dumb;
Each was anxiously asking,
‘Where is the potter, and the buyer and seller of pots?'”

-Translation from P. Avery & J. Heath-Stubbs, “The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam”, Penguin classics, 1981, p. 64

Based on the compositional device of a carpet pattern, the finely illuminated decorative motifs, the expert manner of the writing in cursive hand (in two styles), and the unusual choice of parchment, a material not in use since the 10th century, may indicate that these pages resulted from an expensive experiment.


Collections Database: SC 1990.2-23