Muhammad Mahdi

Flower Study

Flower Study
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Muhammad Mahdi
Miniatures, Gouache, 31x20.5 cm
Origin: Iran, Mid-18th century

Iranian artists of the Isfahan school regularly turned to the depiction of birds and flowers; for some, such as Muhammad Mahdi, this genre would seem to be the main one of their work. Contributing to this tendency was the symbolism of flowers in Muslim art. The iris, for instance, was a holy flower of Islam - some of its petals point upwards towards Allah, while others drop down towards the earth; yet others are level, as if indicating Man himself. Roses, tulips, carnations and lotus flowers also had allegorical meanings.

This miniature shows a lush yellow and red iris and, together with another flower composition it formed one spread of an album which has not survived. Such albums - known as muraqqa' - had symmetrical arrangements of similarly painted compositions and samples of calligraphy, forming a kind of miniature picture gallery. Usually the sheets of any one spread were of the same type and size. In this case the miniatures are set into identical frames of coloured bands and are stuck onto blue cardboard . This "fantasy" of different flowers seems to grow from a single root. A natural approach to certain details in these flatly-treated flowers is combined with decorative devices, such as the long green leaf decorated with another stem of little flowers.

Source of entry: First Branch of the State Hermitage Museum, 1924

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