ʿEMĀD ḤASANĪ, MĪR, ʿEMĀD-AL-MOLK b. Ebrāhīm (ca. 961-30 Rajab 1024/ca. 1554-15 August 1615), one of the most celebrated nastaʿlīq calligraphers of Persia. He was born in Qazvīn to a family of Sayfī Ḥasanī sayyeds who had been associated for years with the Safavid court in such capacities as librarian or accountant. He is reported by modern authors (Huart, pp. 239-42; Ḵalīl, p. 5) to have studied calligraphy under three well-known calligraphers of the time: ʿĪsā Beg Rangkār, Mālek Deylamī, and Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Tabrīzī. Contemporary sources,however, do not substantiate this education (Moṣṭafā ʿAlī, pp. 85-87; Qāżī Aḥmad, pp. 121-22, tr. Minorsky, pp. 167-68; Eskandar Beg, p. 895; Naṣrābādī, pp. 207-8). Mahdī Bayānī sees some truth in the report that Mīr ʿEmād went to Tabrīz to study with Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Tabrīzī. Wāla Eṣfahānī claims that Mīr ʿEmād considered himself a student of ʿĪsā Beg, but it is not clear whether Mīr ʿEmād was stating a fact or paying a compliment (Wāla, p. 463; Bayānī, p. 521).

From Tabrīz, Mīr ʿEmād apparently traveled for several years, visiting Ottoman Turkey, Ḥejāz, Aleppo, and Baghdad. Between visits he returned to work in Qazvīn as indicated by the manuscripts that he copied there: two copies of Asadī’s Garšāsb-nāma in 981/1573 and Saʿdī’s Golestān and Būstān in 998/1589 (Robinson, p. 59; Ātābāy, pp. 612-13). By 1004/1595-96 he was working as a scribe in the Semnān library of Shah ʿAbbās’ Uzbek general Farhād Khan Qaramānlū (Qāżī Aḥmad, p. 121, tr. Minorsky, p. 168), who was an active patron of the arts and letters. In 1007/1598 Farhād Khan was put to death by Shah ʿAbbās. Probably pained and resentful about Farhād Khan’s treatment, Mīr ʿEmād returned to Qazvīn to avoid the court and official duties (Qāżī Aḥmad, p. 121, tr. Minorsky, p. 168). Apparently changing his attitude, he moved in the following year to the capital of Isfahan and wrote a letter to the shah, presenting himself as a scribe worthy of patronage (Bayānī, pp. 522-23; for a reproduction of the letter see Fażāʾelī, p. 526). For the next sixteen years Mīr ʿEmād was one of the two most prominent calligraphers at the court of Shah ʿAbbās. The other was ʿAlī-Reżā ʿAbbāsī (q.v.), who later became his rival and opponent. Although Shah ʿAbbās’ strong affinity for ʿAlī-Reżā is usually attributed to the latter’s dexterity in carving handsome ṯolṯ inscriptions on buildings (Mīr ʿEmād did try his hand at this form of calligraphy but seemingly preferred writing on paper), it must have been Mīr ʿEmād’s adamant belief in his own artistic superiority over other calligraphers that gradually made Shah ʿAbbās weary of him and favor ʿAlī-Reżā instead. Still, it appears that there was a campaign in the royal library to discredit Mīr ʿEmād in the eyes of the shah. By the latter part of his tenure at the library, Mīr ʿEmād had become so frustrated and disappointed with Shah ʿAbbās that on several occasions he recklessly offended the shah by sending him unflattering poetry. Infuriated by this behavior, the shah made Mīr ʿEmād’s alleged Sunni inclination an issue and implicitly approved his murder. Mīr ʿEmād was brutally assassinated on 30 Rajab 1024/15 August 1615 (Falsafī, II, pp. 59-63).

Mīr ʿEmād’s rendition of nastaʿlīq, with smooth lines, many curves, very occasional diacritical marks, symmetry of letters and words, and usually excellent choice of decorations surrounding the words, had widespread appeal during his lifetime and after his death. He was certainly aware of the technical and practical guides written on calligraphy, as he himself copied Solṭān-ʿAlī Mašhadī’s important verse treatise, Ṣīrāt al-soṭūr (Eqbāl, p. 11). He must also have been aware of the Ādāb al-mašq (q.v.), a treatise on nastaʿlīq writing by his contemporary Bābāšāh, which was later attributed to Mīr ʿEmād (Māyel Heravī, intro., pp. 56-57).

Numerous specimens of Mīr ʿEmād’s work exist throughout the world in public and private collections (Bayānī, pp. 533-38). The former Royal Library in Tehran hold a number of books and pamphlets copied by Mīr ʿEmād, among them a copy of Ḥāfeẓ’s Dīvān, dated 1003/1594-95, and a copy of Saʿdī’s Golestān, dated 1023/1614. The latter volume and another copy of Saʿdī’s Golestān, dated 1021/1612, also in Mīr ʿEmād’s hand and now in the collection of Yaḥyā Mahdawī, were apparently copied from Saʿdī’s own copy (Ātābāy, pp. 612-13; Saʿdī, Ketāb-e Golestān, ed. ʿA.-ʿA. Qarīb, intro. pp. 106-7). Ḵānbābā Mošār cites an undated reproduction of a manuscript of Saʿdī’s Būstān, copied by Mīr ʿEmād in 1012/1603, which was apparently published in Kabul (Mošār, col. 525; Saʿdī, Būstān, p. 15). Yet another copy of the Dīvān of Ḥāfeẓ, dated 1009/1601, is attributed to him. It is in the private collection of ʿAbd-al-ʿAlī Adīb Barūmand, who published a facsimile edition of it in Tehran in 1369/1990. Several years earlier (ca. 1955) the Monājāt of ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣārī and a few quatrains of ʿOmar Ḵayyām, both copied by Mīr ʿEmād, were published in facsimile edition by the Anjoman-e dūstdārān-e ketāb (for still another version, see ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣārī, 1994).

In 1023/1614 Mīr ʿEmād collaborated with the renowned painter Reżā ʿAbbāsī to produce an exquisite illustrated copy of Ḥaydar Ḵᵛārazmī’s (9th/15th cent.) Maḵzan al-asrār, of which only nine illustrated pages have survived (Soudavar, p. 273; Taḏkera-ye ḵošnevīsān, p. 150).

Several samples of Mīr ʿEmād’s calligraphy in an album in St. Petersburg, the [since 2007] Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, have twice been superbly reproduced (Akimushkin, 1994; Ivanov et al.). Other specimens of Mīr ʿEmād’s calligraphy can be found in the Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Āstān-e qods-e rażawī (Mašhad), Ketāb-ḵāna-ye mellī-e Īrān, Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Majles (Tehran), Topkapı Sarayı Library (Istanbul), and the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris).

Plate I. Page (folio 1 verso) from an album of moraqqaʿāt, signed by Mīr ʿEmād Ḥasanī. Text area 18.2 × 10.8 cm. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, MS 609. Photograph courtesy of David Khalili.


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(Kambiz Eslami)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: December 4, 2012

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Vol. VIII, Fasc. 4, pp. 382-385