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ART; A pearl of poetry and paint; A lavishly illustrated 16th century Mughal book, normally accessible only to scholars, receives a rare public showing.
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: Historic artifacts; Art exhibits; Books
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Jul 10, 2005
Start Page: E.34
Section: Sunday Calendar; Part E; Calendar Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Khusraw liked to say he was letting "pearls of poesy drop from my mouth." His best-known pearls took the form of his adaptation, around 1300, of a renowned book known as the Khamsa (or quintet of long poems) by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. Nizami wrote his book around 1200. Khusraw followed the meter and much of the story line of Nizami's five poems, but the words were his own.

Akbar commissioned sumptuous illustrated manuscripts of works that he regarded as most important. The most elegant are the Khamsa of Nizami, now in the British Library in London, and the Khamsa of Khusraw, now in the [Henry Walters]. The best-known calligrapher of the era, Mohammad Hussayn al-Kashmiri, who bore the title of "the Gold Pen," was assigned to set down the script of the Khusraw poems. Writing at the painstaking pace of only 16 1/2 lines a day, it took him two years to complete the text. The book was finished in either 1597 or 1598 in Akbar's capital of Lahore, in what is now Pakistan.

While the Gold Pen worked on the calligraphy, 13 master painters from the imperial workshop were assigned to produce the 31 illustrations. Although most of the [Mughal] painters were born in India, they were trained in Persian techniques. They were also influenced by European styles that they had seen in prints brought to India by Christian missionaries. The European influence is reflected in the three-dimensional modeling of the figures and the tendency to include distant landscaping in the corners of a painting. The illustrated pages were so highly regarded that four of the artists were permitted to sign their pages, a rare honor in Mughal manuscripts.

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