A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, The Iranian Painter, the Metaphorical Hermitage, and the Christian Princess
The "hexagonal hermitage" of the world. Tabriz, 9th c.
The “hexagonal hermitage” of the world. Tabriz, 15th c.

The verses calligraphed on pages of Iranian book painting relate to the painted theme and also supply a commentary, while secondary details in the image itself visually convey notions expressed in Persian literature which back up the central theme of these verses. The lack of interest in these verses has led to a misunderstanding of a remarkable manuscript painting which survives on a single page from an unidentified manuscript now kept in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul. Here the two Persian couplets painted on the monument pictured transcribe the literary metaphor of the monastery seen as a symbol of the world.
    The verses and the image, taken together, tell us that the painting and, presumably, the manuscript to which it belonged, were composed for a Christian person high up in the royal entourage. At its likely period of execution, the second half of the 9/15th century, such a commission fits only Theodora Komnene, the Greek consort of Sultan Hasan of the Aqquyunlu dynasty in control of Western Iran.


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