Thoughts on an Illustrated Copy of the Divan of Muhammad Khan Dashti from the 1270s (1853-1863)


Qajar painting is best known for its large images. These large images have generated most of the scholarly writing on Qajar figurative art. This was a natural outcome of the shift of emphasis from illustrated manuscripts that were the primary channel for the figurative arts of the Safavid era to life size paintings that were initiated by the Qajars. As a result, considerably more research is needed to understand the state of the arts of the book under Qajar rule. This paper focuses on a previously unpublished manuscript of the Divan of Muhammad Khan Dashti dated to the 1270s (1853-1863), which has thirty textual illustrations that can be divided into two distinct groups: the former showing a number of amorous couples, and the latter comprising of images of the Karbala incident. The discussion of the combination of the usual and the idiosyncratic found in these images aims to shed further light on the production and consumption of both manuscripts and figurative art in the Qajar era.