Recently I had one of those moments which researchers live for when the stars aligned and all the pieces suddenly fell into place, so here is a short thread about a eunuch, his tomb, and how architectural inscriptions were produced in 19th-century Iran...
The V&A holds a unique collection of 19th-c. architectural drawings, known as the Mirza Akbar drawings, purchased in the 1870s from a couple of builders working on the British embassy in Tehran. They provide a very rare glimpse into the history of architectural practice in Iran.
These two inscriptions (ink on Russian paper) are among the Mirza Akbar drawings. They are templates for two lines of a poetic inscription dated 1263/1846-47. They have long interested me as there is a mention of Fath-ʿAli Shah (r.1797-1834), whose reign my research focuses on.
It's not always easy to see, but the outlines of some of the shapes have been pricked to make tiny holes through which a powder (probably charcoal) can be pressed to transfer the shapes to another medium, in a technique known as pouncing.
But where were they transferred to? The term 'muʿtamad' (معتمد) in the inscription suddenly made me wonder if they could be connected to the important Qajar figure known as Muʿtamad al-Dawla, a.k.a. Manuchihr Khan. The inscription's date - 1263 - is the year in which he died.
Manuchihr Khan, born in Tbilisi as Chongur Enikolopiant, was captured by Qajar forces in 1804 and enslaved. He was also castrated, which is why he was beardless. But he rose through the ranks to become a key member of Fath-ʿAli Shah's court and later governor of Isfahan.
On his death, Manuchihr Khan was buried in a mausoleum within the shrine of Fatima Maʿsuma in Qom, close to the tombs of Muhammad and Fath-ʿAli Shah. This is the entrance to the tomb as it looks now (with thanks to Kimia Maleki and Hossein Noori for the photos).
Luckily, there is a history of the shrine (turbat-i pākān) which does include a mention of the tomb. When it was compiled in the 70s, only a few lines of the inscription around the interior of the dome survived but one of them is a match with one of the templates!!
The tomb isn't in a great state and it seems to be being used to store construction and cleaning materials. I have no idea what is left of the interior but I'm not optimistic. (There is a wider issue here about what is seen as worthy of preservation in these shrine complexes).
So, these templates might be the only evidence left for what the inscriptional programme of Manuchihr Khan's mausoleum looked like, as well as providing evidence for artistic/architectural practices in 19th-c. Iran.
If you'd like to know more about Manuchihr Khan, I recommend Nobuaki Kondo's chapter in Gleave's Religion and Society in Qajar Iran which discusses his patronage of religious sites in the context of his position as a convert.
I'll end by encouraging you all to have an explore of the new V&A collections platform which is now up and running. You can lose some happy hours enjoying the rest of the Mirza Akbar drawings...

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Fuchsia Hart

Fuchsia Hart Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @FuchsiaHart

9 Jan
This remarkable embroidered tent from 19th-century Iran, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art, has been popping up on social media quite a bit over the last few days, so I thought I'd do a thread on it to brighten the twitter feeds this weekend...
It was made for Muhammad Shah, the second ruler of Iran's Qajar dynasty, who reigned from the death of his grandfather, Fath-ʿAli Shah, in 1834, until his own death in 1848.
We know it was made for Muhammad Shah as it bears his name, with the title 'Sultan-i Ghazi'. It also has a second inscription, which has been interpreted in a number of ways, but is likely to give the name of the maker, Fath-ʿAli.
Read 16 tweets
22 Nov 20
In the Qur'an & Bible, Zulaykha/Potiphar's wife never gets to consummate her love for Yusuf/Joseph, but in Jami's C15th version, there is a happier ending and they marry - here's a depiction of that moment in a manuscript from C16th Shiraz. (Now in British Library.) 1/5...
The technicality which permits this is that, according to Jami, Zulaykha's first husband (aka Potiphar) wasn't able to consummate their marriage:
'He will not be able to open your silver lock,
for his key will be as soft as wax...
And lead cannot do the work of a diamond.' 2/5
By contrast, Yusuf, after their marriage:
'had a key for her jewellery box made of shining ruby,
and he opened the lock, pouring more jewels inside'.
While Jami certainly gives vivid descriptions of the consummation of Zulaykha's carnal desire, there is more to this... 3/5
Read 7 tweets
3 Aug 20
In class today, I was teaching the inscription on the Ardabil Carpet - it is this text which makes it the earliest dated carpet to survive. Seeing as there should be way more carpet content on Twitter, I thought I'd share it here too! (1/7) #carpetcontent
The first two lines are a couplet by Hafez:
جز آستان توام در جهان پناهی نیست
سر مرا بجز این در حواله گاه نیست
Except for your threshold, I have no refuge in the world.
Except for this door, my head has no resting-place. (2/7)
The next line gives a signature:
عمل بنده درگاه مقصود کاشانی
The work of the servant of the court, Maqsud-i Kashani (3/7)
Read 9 tweets
28 Jul 20
Today, I've been writing a bit on Sultan Murad Mirza Husam al-Saltana (1817-1883), a governor of Khurasan. There's a wonderful portrait of him, so I thought I'd do a thread on some of the notable features of the painting to bring some Qajar style to your timeline this evening...
The artist is Abu'l-Hasan Ghaffari (1814-66), 'naqqashbashi' (head-painter) at Nasir al-Din Shah's court. He painted some of the most iconic works of the era. You might be thinking it all looks a bit staged - this is because he often painted from photos, rather than from life.
Husam al-Saltana was grandson of Fath ʿAli Shah. His father was ʿAbbas Mirza, Fath ʿAli's son & heir who predeceased him. Husam al-Saltana was a prominent figure at court during the reign of Nasir al-Din Shah - here he is wearing the Order of the Royal Image (timsal-i humayuni).
Read 5 tweets
20 Apr 20
#Ramadan2020 is on the way, but I've recently been reading a bit about Ramadan in the early-19th century in Iran. I think most non-Muslims probably associate Ramadan with not eating, but what about not smoking your shisha (qaliyan) or opium pipe?
The shisha pipe was pretty much a permanent fixture of life in early Qajar Iran. It was smoked everywhere and at anytime - from when in the mosque, to while on horseback. Fath-ʿAli Shah is often depicted with his pipe at his side.
As a small aside - there was a particularly beautiful type of qaliyan made in Shiraz at the time, which had small metal, enamelled flowers pressed into the inside of the 'vase' of the pipe using long pincers when the glass was still soft.
Read 10 tweets
19 Mar 20
It's #Nowruz tomorrow, and as many won't be able to celebrate as normal, I thought I'd use a thread to take us all back to Nowruz Fath-ʿAli Shah style (this related by George Fowler in his 1841 'Three Years in Persia').
As you can imagine, there was lots of ceremony, and it would be a v v long thread if I mentioned it all, so this will just be some highlights. But, first, a quick note on the timing of the festival, which Fowler clearly appreciates:
He goes on: 'The Shah's splendour on these grand occasions has been described to me as perhaps the most gorgeous display in the world. The immense riches of the crown jewels would buy a kingdom... he seems made up of diamonds, pearls, and all the sparkling stones in the world.'
Read 7 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!