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Miniature with a lion

Illustrated leaf from a Persian manuscript of Qazwînî’s ‘Aja’ib al-Makhlûqât (Wonders of Creation)

Ink, gouache and gold on paper, 14 lines of text per page written in nasta’liq script

Safavid Persia, Shiraz, circa 1560

Dimensions each leaf: 25 x 15 cm. Text area: 16 x 9 cm.

This miniature comes from a single manuscript from which a number of pages are now in various public collections: six are at the Louvre in Paris (Paris 2001, fig. 37 to 42, pp. 59-63) and two others, which originally belonged to the Pozzi collection, are now at the ‘Musée d’art et d’histoire’ in Geneva (Robinson 1992, nos. 83-84 pp. 122-123). Seven other pages went to public auction at Sotheby’s in London, three on the 8th July 1980, lot n° 206, and four on the 18th October 2001, lot n°57.

The Persian text of this manuscript is a translation of the most famous book of cosmography from the Islamic world, written in Arabic by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmûd al-Qazwînî (around 1203-1283) and entitled ‘Ajâ’ib al-Makhlûqât wa gharâ’ib al-mawjûdât (“The Wonders of Creation and the Peculiarities of Existing Things”). The book of Wonders by Qazwînî is a comprehensive survey of scientific and mythical knowledge of the 13th century. Its importance was such that it was copied, translated and illustrated from its inception. It influenced numerous scholars and Muslim authors, and contributed to the creation of a mythical iconography. The subject of this miniature is the description of a lion (asad) from the section on wild animals. A chapter in the exhibition catalogue ‘L’Étrange et le Merveilleux en terres d’Islam’, (Collinet in Paris 2001, pp. 34-36) is dedicated to al-Qazwînî.