RUZBEHĀN, the proper name used in artist signatures in twelve manuscripts with illumination, which are associated with 16th-century Shiraz workshops. All are dateable between 1509 and 1560.  The craftsmanship is of exceptionally high quality, but at the current state of research on manuscript book production in Safavid Iran (see SAFAVID DYNASTY) it cannot be determined with absolute certainty whether all twelve signatures belong to a single artist.   

A Shiraz calligrapher (see CALLIGRAPHY) named Ruzbehān is lauded by Qāżi Aḥmad (d. after 1606) in his Golestān-e honar.  According to this Safavid author, Ruzbehān wrote most of the local inscriptions together with several other Shiraz masters, and most of the calligraphers who have made a name for themselves in Fārs, Khorasan, Kerman, and Iraq are “eaters of crumbs from their table” (Qāżi Aḥmad, 1959, p. 67; for the Persian, see idem, 1973, p. 28).

The placement of the Ruzbehān signatures makes it possible to divide ten of the twelve manuscripts into two groups; for the two manuscripts in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul (Sakisian, p. 218; cf. Teece, pp. 327-28), there is, as of July 2016, not enough published information to determine how they fit into this corpus.

The first group consists of six manuscripts, comprising one Quran and five codices with classic works of Persian literature: a Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi (d. 1019 or 1025) a Ḵamsa of Neẓāmi (d. 1209), a Kolliāt of Saʿdi (d. 1291 or 1292), and two manuscripts with works of Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi (d. 1325).  Their Ruzbehān signatures appear on illuminated leaves and indicate that Ruzbehān worked as an illuminator (moḏahheb) and came from a family of artisans of the book.  The signature in the Neẓāmi (New York, MMA 13.228.6) gives the names of Ruzbehān's father and grandfather: Naʿim-al-Din b. Ṣadr-al-Din (Rettig, p. 163).  Although the colophon of this manuscript is signed by Naʿim-al-Din, it cannot be determined whether the codex was the result of a father-and-son collaboration, as there are at least two Shiraz scribes with this name (Uluç, 2006a, p. 96 n. 13).  The colophon of the Amir Ḵosrow in Berlin (MIK ms. 16016), which has illuminated opening pages signed by Ruzbehān, carries the name Monʿem-al-Din Moḥammad al-Awḥadi al-Ḥosayni.  The very same name also appears as the patronym in the signature of the Shiraz scribe Naʿim-al-Din Aḥmad b. Monʿem-al-Din Moḥammad al-Awḥadi al-Ḥosayni in the Šāh-nāma (Washington, D.C., Sackler Gallery, S1986.58.1).  It is therefore also possible that Ruzbehān collaborated with the father Monʿem-al-Din in MIK ms. 16016 as well as with Monʿem-al-Din's son Naʿim-al-Din in MMA 13.228.6.

The second group comprises four Qurans with colophons signed by Ruzbehān.  David James (1992, p. 148) considered the Ruzbehān of the Quran colophons and the Ruzbehān of the illuminated leaves to be the same person, even though the wording of the signatures varies.  Only in the Quran colophons does Ruzbehān also use the proper name Moḥammad.  At the same time, these signatures do not include the patronym Naʿim-al-Din, which occurs only on some of the illuminated leaves.  With regard to the colophon of a Chester Beatty Quran with a Ruzbehān signature (Dublin, CBL ms. 1588), James (1980, p. 20) translates the phrase “tašarrafa be-taḥrirehi wa-taqaddama be-tarqimehi” as he “was ennobled by copying it and undertook to pen it.”  The translation suggests that the terms “taḥrir” and “tarqim” are taken to mean that Ruzbehān copied and illuminated the text.  These terms do not, however, necessarily signify two separate functions, since they are also used as synonyms.  Indeed, Anna Contadini (pp. 64-65, n. 2) considers his interpretation “subject to debate.”  Elaine Wright (p. 134) agrees with James, though she assumes that Ruzbehān worked “surely with the help of a number of assistants.”  Sheila Blair (p. 419 and 461-62, nn. 12-20) also assumes that the Ruzbehān of the Quran colophons was the same individual as Ruzbehān b. Naʿim-al-Din.  While there is not any clear evidence to prove or disprove these speculations, the illumination of CBL ms. 1588 is stylistically similar to the other leaves signed by Ruzbehān Moḏahheb.  Stylistic attribution to known masters, however, is not a reliable method, especially in the case of Shiraz manuscripts, since repeated formulas abound in work from this prolific production center.

In addition to these twelve manuscripts, unsigned illuminated leaves from three other codices have been attributed to Ruzbehān.  One is a copy of the Divān of Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi in Paris (BNF Supp. Pers. 731).  In Washington, D.C., the Sackler Gallery has the frontispiece of a Quran (S1986.82.1-2) and the forementioned Šāh-nāma copied by Naʿim-al-Din Aḥmad b. Monʿim-al-Din Moḥammad al-Awḥadi Ḥosayni (S1986.58.1).  The Sackler Gallery received these two manuscripts in 1986, when the Smithsonian Institution purchased the extensive collection of the French jeweler Henri Vever (1854-1942; cf. Lowry et al.).  The design of the Quran frontispiece S1986.82.1-2 (h = 29 cm) is almost identical to the frontispiece of the Quran CBL ms. 1588 (h = 42.7 cm), though the latter is a significantly larger codex.  The colophons of the Šāh-nāma S1986.58.1 and of the Neẓāmi MMA 13.228.6 carry the same name.  Simon Rettig (p. 163) has compared the nastaʿliq of the Neẓāmi MMA 13.228.6 with that of signed work by both Naʿim-al-Din Aḥmad and Naʿim-al-Din b. Ṣadr-al-Din, and concluded that the scribe of the New York Neẓāmi was Naʿim-al-Din Aḥmad.

Some of the illuminated leaves signed by Ruzbehān appear in the most refined manuscripts of his time, although it cannot be determined if Ruzbehān worked as both scribe and moḏahheb.  These works introduced new trends, which in the following decades became characteristic of the illumination found in Shiraz manuscripts.  The first example of these appears in the signed frontispiece of Saʿdi’s Kolliāt, datable to about 1510-20 (Oxford, Bod. Fraser 73).  Instead of having horizontal and vertical divisions, Ruzbehān’s design comprises a single lobed medallion with pendants surrounded by a border in each central rectangle; the border, in turn, also has a lobed edge.

A second trend-setting innovation in Shiraz illumination is found in the frontispiece of a Šāh-nāma (London, BL I.O. Isl. 133), the colophon of which is dated 967/1560-61.  Its design is in a new tripartite formula that was introduced in Shiraz in the second half of the 1550s and became popular from the 1560s onwards (Uluç, 2006a, p. 173, fig. 122).  It has a rectangular central field designed with one full and two half medallions that define a prominent vertical axis for the page, with its two sides as mirror images.  This codex is, moreover, closely linked to TSMK H. 1500, as both Šāh-nāma manuscripts have the same distinctive styles in their figurative illustrations (BL I.O. Islamic 133, fols. 96a and 203a; TSMK H. 1500, fols. 103a and 272a).  This observation suggests that painters from the same workshop, whose names were unfortunately not recorded, were involved with their production (for a detailed stylistic analysis, see Uluç, 2006a, pp. 162-73).  Although the frontispiece of BL I.O. Isl. 133 (fols. 2b-3a), unlike that of the TSMK H. 1500 (fols. 1b-2a), does not carry Ruzbehān’s signature, its exceptionally high quality and fine brushwork suggests that he, or a close associate, may also have worked on it

A third trend-setting innovation is the use of gold floral scrolls in the margins of illustrated leaves.  This feature can already be observed in BL I.O. Isl. 133, as a single gold floral decoration appears on the lower left corner margin of the illustration depicting Rostam's slaying of Sohrāb (fol. 96a; cf. Uluç, 2006a, p. 166, fig. 116).  From the late 1560s onwards, golden animal and vegetal motifs in the margins of illustrated leaves became more popular in luxury Shiraz manuscripts, and they were ubiquitous by the 1580s.

Ruzbehān’s signature in the illuminated frontispiece of the Saʿdi Bod. Fraser 73 establishes a concrete historical context, into which to place his work, since this codex belongs to a corpus of ten manuscripts with colophons that identify their locale as the āstāna (lit. “threshold”) or boqʿa (“mausoleum”) of Ḥażrat Mawlānā Ḥosām-al-Din Ebrāhim in Shiraz (Uluç, 2006a, pp. 98-99; 2006b).  The most recent manuscript from this Shiraz locale is a copy of Neẓāmi's Ḵamsa (Washington, D.C., Sackler Gallery, S1986.37), which has two colophons dated 915/1509-10 and 934/1527-28; this codex is also part of the Vever collection.  Since the most recent manuscript which carries Ruzbehān's signature is the Šāh-nāma TSMK H. 1500, which is datable to around 1560, it seems that the artists who were associated with this Shiraz locale continued to be active after the 1520s.



Manuscripts with illumination signed by Ruzbehān, in chronological order.

Neẓāmi, Ḵamsa  – New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA), acc. no. 13.228.6, – MS pers., 29.2 × 17.8 cm; the colophon is dated 915/1509-10 and signed by Naʿim-al-Din, while the illuminated opening fols. 1b-2a are signed by Ruzbehān Moḏahheb b. Naʿim-al-Din b. Ṣadr-al-Din Kāteb (Jackson and Yohannan, pp. 53-58; cf. Rettig, pp. 269-71; Teece, pp. 151-52).

Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Divān – Berlin, Museum of Islamic Art (MIK: Museum für Islamische Kunst), ms. 16016 – MS pers., 27 × 16 cm; the colophon is dated 920/1514-15 and signed by Monʿim-al-Din al-Awḥadi al-Ḥosayni, while the illuminated opening fols. 2b-3a are inscribed with “ḏahhaba al-ʿAbd Ruzbehān” (cf. James, 1992, p. 148; Enderlein, p. 138).

Saʿdi, Kolliāt – Oxford, Bodleian Library, Fraser 73-75 – MS pers. in 3 vols., 24 × 15 cm, undated (ca. 1515-20; copied at the āstāna of Ḥażrat Mawlānā Ḥosām-al-Din Ebrāhim; the illuminated opening fols. 2b-3a of Fraser 73 (that is, vol. I) show in in the inner border's bottom left rosette of fol. 3a the signature “ʿalā yad al-ʿabd Ruzbehān al-moḏahheb” (reproduced in Teece, pl. 5.26; Ethé 687,; Robinson, 1958, p. 90, s.v. no. 695; cf. Stchoukine, cat. no. 96; Arts of Islam, cat. no. 592; Akimushkin and Ivanov, pp. 38 and 45, fig. 22; Robinson, 1980, p. 155; Uluç, 2006a, pp. 100-102, figs. 49-50; Teece, pp. 149-50).

Quran – Tehran, National Museum of Iran, call number not available – MS arab., 29 × 18 cm, dated 929/1522-23, copied by Pir Moḥammad al-Ṯāni; the illumination is signed by Ruzbehān and dated 930/1523-24 (Bayāni, 1949, II, pp. 38-39, s.v. no. 79; cf. James, 1992, p. 148).

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma – Istanbul, Topkapi Saray Library (TSMK: Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kutuphanesi), H. 1500, – MS pers., 38 × 23 cm, no date (ca. 1560); the illuminated double frontispiece on fols. 1b-2a carries the inscription “ḏahhaba … Ruzbehān al-moḏahheb;” the illuminated headpiece of fol. 15b, which marks the beginning of the Šāh-nāma, is inscribed with “taḏhib-e Ruzbehān Širāzi” (Uluç, 2006a, pp. 162-65, figs. 112-115).

Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Hašt behest – Ann Arbor, Michigan University Library, Isl. Ms. 266, – MS pers., 23.5 × 15 cm, the colophon is undated, but the illuminated fol. 1b is dated 968/1560-61 and signed “tadhib-e Ruzbehān Širāzi.”

Qurans with colophons signed by Ruzbehān, in chronological order. 

Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, ms. 1588 – MS arab., 42.7 × 29 cm, undated (ca. 1520), and signed Ruzbehān Moḥammad al-Ṭabʿi al-Širāzi (Arberry, cat. no. 156; James, 1980, pp. 77-79, s.v. nos. 58-60; James, 1981, cat. no. 21; Wright, pp. 134-45, fig. 97; cf. James, 1992, p. 148; Blair, pp. 419-21).

London, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, QUR 60 – MS arab., 32.5 × 21 cm, undated and signed Ruzbehān al-Ṭabʿi al-Širāzi (James, 1992, pp. 158-63, s.v. no. 40, for the full text of the colophon on fol. 382a, p. 248; cf. James, 1980, pp. 77-79, s.v. nos. 58-60; James, 1981, cat. no. 21).

London, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, QUR 111 – MS arab., 26.6 × 17 cm, dated 952/1545-46 and signed Ruzbehān al-Ṭabʿi al-Širāzi (James, 1992, pp. 150-57, s.v. no. 39, for the full text of the colophon on fol. 240a, see p. 248).

Mashhad, Āstān-e Qods Library, no. 136 – MS arab., 28 × 18 cm, dated 954/1547-48 and signed by Ruzbehān (Golčin Maʿāni, pp. 184, 189, and unnumbered plate, s.v. no. 86; cf. James, 1992, p. 148).

Manuscripts with unsigned illumination attributed to Ruzbehān, in chronological order. 

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma – Washington, D.C., Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, S1986.58.1, – MS pers., 29 × 19.4 cm, dated Moḥarram 924/January 1518 (Lowry et al., pp. 96-97).

Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Divān – Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), Supplément Persan 731 – MS pers., dated 932/1525-26 (Richard, p. 136).

Quran fragment – Washington, D.C., Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, S1986.82.1-2, – MS pers., 29 × 19.4 cm, undated (ca. 1550), detached frontispiece (Lowry et al., p. 19; cf. Lowry, pp. 66-67; Blair and Bloom, p. 338; Canby, pp. 148-49, s.v. no. 5.6).

Unpublished manuscripts with Ruzbehān signatures not examined in person, in chronological order. 

Saʿdi – Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (TEİM: Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi), no. 1574 – MS pers., dated 1516, signed by Ruzbehān Moḏahheb (title, hijra date, size, and the signature's location are not indicated in Sakasian, p. 218,  n. 5).

Quran – Istanbul, Istanbul, TEİM, no. 186 – MS arab., signed by Ruzbehān Širāzi (date, size, and the signature's location are not indicated in Sakasian, p. 218, n. 6).

Manuscripts of the āstāna or boqʿa of Ḥosām-al-Din Ebrāhim in Shiraz, in chronological order: 

Neẓāmi, Ḵamsa – Washington, D.C., Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, S1986.37, – MS pers., 28.2 × 17.8 cm, dated 915/1509 and 934/1528 (Lowry et al., pp. 217-21).

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma – London, British Library (BL), India Office Islamic 133, formerly cited as Ethé 863, – MS pers., 38 × 22.5 cm, Shiraz, the colophon is dated 18 Ḏu'l-Qaʿda 967/20 August 1560; with an unsigned illuminated double frontispiece on fols. 1b-2a (Robinson, 1976, pp. 89-97, esp. p. 89).

Other texts cited. 

Oleg F. Akimushkin and Anatol A. Ivanov, “The Art of Illumination,” in The Arts of the Book in Central Asia: 14th-116th Centuries, ed. Basil Gray et al., Paris, 1979, pp. 35-59.

Arthur J. Arberry, The Koran Illuminated: A Handlist of the Korans in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, 1967.

The Arts of Islam: Hayward Gallery 8 April-4 July 1976, ed. Dalu Jones and George Mitchell, London, 1976.

Mehdi Bahrāmi, “Tadwin-e Qorʾān va maqām-e ān dar tārikh: Ḵaṭṭ va jeld va taḏhib,” in Rāhnemā-ye ganjina-ye Qorʾān dar Muza-ye Irān-e bāstān, Tehran 1328/1949, I, pp. 1-70; for Ruzbehān, see I, pp. 53-54 (the reference to Quran MS no. 80 is a typographical error).

Mehdi Bayāni, “Fehrest-e Qorʾānhā va qeṭaʿāti az Qorʾān-e majid,” in Rāhnemā-ye ganjina-ye Qorʾān dar Muza-ye Irān-e bāstān, Tehran 1328/1949, II, pp. 1-107; for Ruzbehān, II, pp. 38-39, s.v. no. 79.

Mehdi Bayāni, Aḥwāl wa ātār-e ḵošnevisān: Nastaʿliq-e nevisān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1966-69; for Ruzbehān, see: I, pp. 220-21, s.v. no. 347.

Sheila S. Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh, 2006.

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan Bloom, Islamic Arts, London, 1997.

Sheila R. Canby, “Safavid Illumination,” in Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501-1576, ed. Sheila R. Canby and Jon Thompson, Milan, 2003, pp. 135-55.

Anna Contadini, “Travelling Pattern: A Qurʾanic Illumination and its Secular Source,” in Safavid Art and Architecture, ed. Sheila R. Canby, London, 2002, pp. 58-67.

Volkmar Enderlein, Museum für islamische Kunst: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Mainz, 2001.

Hermann Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library I: The Persian Manuscripts, Oxford 1889.

Aḥmad Golčin Maʿāni, Rahnemā-ye ganjina-ye Qorʾān, Mashhad, 1347/1968.

A. V. Williams Jackson and Abraham Yohannan, A Catalogue of the Collection of Persian Manuscripts, Including also Some Turkish and Arabic, Presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Alexander Smith Cochran, New York, 1914.

David James, Qurʾans and Bindings from the Chester Beatty Library: A Facsimile Exhibition, London, 1980.

Idem, Islamic Masterpieces of the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1981.

Idem, After Timur: Qurʾans of the 15th and 16th Centuries, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art 3, London, 1992.

Glenn D. Lowry et al., An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988.

Glenn D. Lowry with Susan Namazee, A Jeweler’s Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988.

Qāżi Aḥmad, Calligraphers and Painters: A Treatise, tr. Vladimir Minorsky, Washington, D.C., 1959.

Idem, Golestān-e honar, ed. A. Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, Tehran, 1973.

Simon Rettig, “La production manuscrite à Chiraz sous les Aq Qoyunlu entre 1467 et 1503,” Ph.D. diss., Université Aix-Marseille 1, Université de Provence, 2011.

Francis Richard, Splendeurs persanes: Manuscrits du XIIe au XVIIe siècle, Paris, 1997.

B. W. Robinson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Persian Paintings in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1958.

Idem, Persian Paintings in the India Office Library: A Descriptive Catalogue, London, 1976.

Idem, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue, London, 1980.

Arménag Bey Sakisian. “La reliure persane au XVe siècle, sous les Turcomans,” Artibus Asiae 7, no. 1/4, 1937, pp. 210-23, esp. p. 218

Ivan Stchoukine, Les peintures des manuscrits safavis de 1502 à 1587, Paris, 1959.

Marie-Denise Teece, “Vessels of Verse, Ships of Song: Persian Anthologies of the Qara Quyunlu and Aq Quyunlu Period,” Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2013 (Proquest AAT 3603023); for Ruzbehān, see pp. 149-55 and 327-28.

Lâle Uluç, Turkman Governors, Shiraz Artisans and Ottoman Collectors: Arts of the Book in 16th Century Shiraz, Istanbul, 2006a.

Idem, “A Group of Artists Associated with the ‘Āsitāna’ of Ḥusām al-Dīn Ibrāhīm,” Artibus Asiae 66, 2006b, pp. 113-47.

Elaine Wright, Islam, Faith, Art, Culture: Manuscripts of the Chester Beatty Library, London, 2009.

(Lâle Uluç)

Originally Published: July 25, 2016

Last Updated: July 25, 2016

Cite this entry:

Lâle Uluç, “RUZBEHĀN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at (accessed on 25 July 2016).