The Prophet Muhammad’S Ascent To Heaven (Painting, Verso; Text, Recto), Folio From A Manuscript Of The Khamsa (Layla And Majnun) By Nizami
recto © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.3
People
Unknown Artist
Title
The Prophet Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven (painting, verso; text, recto), folio from a manuscript of the Khamsa (Layla and Majnun) by Nizami
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Khamsa (Layla and Majnun) by Nizami
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
1584
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
40.2 x 26.5 cm (15 13/16 x 10 7/16 in.)
framed: 57.5 x 43.5 x 2.9 cm (22 5/8 x 17 1/8 x 1 1/8 in.)
Provenance
[Christies, London, 18 October 1994, lot 26]. [Mansour Gallery, London, by 1994 or 1995], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1994 or 1995 - 2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.3
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
The story of the miraculous night journey of the Prophet Muhammad is based on passages from the Qur'an (17:1, 53:1–18, and 81:19–25), as well as later hadith that describe his travel (isra' ) from “the holy mosque” to “the farthest mosque” as well as his ascent to heaven (mi'raj) and what he experienced there. Paintings of this wondrous event sometimes appear in illustrated manuscripts of Persian epic and romantic poetry, such as the Khamsa of Nizami, even though they are not directly related to the stories told in these works.
In this illustration, the Prophet is shown in mid-journey, riding his human-headed steed, Buraq. Rainbow-winged angels hover around him and proffer golden vessels. Among them is archangel Gabriel: holding a banner of green, the color associated with the Prophet, he leads Muhammad on his mystical journey. Although earlier depictions of the Prophet reveal his face, here he is shown veiled, in accord with iconography adopted at the beginning of the Safavid period, in the early 1500s.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2013
107

The Prophet’s Ascent, from Laylā va Majnūn
Recto: text and illustration
Verso: text
Folio: 40.2 × 26.5 cm (15 13/16 × 10 7/16 in.)
2002.50.3

Published: Christie’s 1994a, lot 26; McWilliams, 2004, 9, fig.12; Raguin and Bangdel 2010, 290, fig. 1.

The story of the miraculous night journey of the Prophet Muhammad is based on passages from the Qurʾan (17:1, 53:1–18, and 81:19–25), as well as later hadith that describe his travel (isrāʾ ) from “the holy mosque” to “the farthest mosque” as well as his ascent to heaven (miʿrāj) and what he experienced there. Paintings of this wondrous event sometimes appear in illustrated manuscripts of Persian epic and romantic poetry, such as the Khamsa of Nizami, even though they are not directly related to the stories told in these works.

In this illustration, the Prophet is shown in mid-journey, riding his human-headed steed, Buraq. Rainbow-winged angels hover around him and proffer golden vessels. Among them is Archangel Gabriel: holding a banner of green, the color associated with the Prophet, he leads Muhammad on his mystical journey. Although earlier depictions of the Prophet reveal his face, here he is shown veiled, in accord with iconography adopted at the beginning of the Safavid period, in the early 1500s.[1]

Mika M. Natif

[1] Gruber 2009a.

Label Text: Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2004
Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven
Folio from a manuscript of the Khamsa by Nizami
Iran, Shiraz, 16th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
2002.50.3 recto [first proof]

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

Virginia Raguin, Dina Bangdel, and F.E. Peters, ed., Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, exh. cat., Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, College of the Holy Cross and Serindia Publications Inc. (Worcester, MA, 2010), p. 290, fig. 1

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 163-165, ill.; p. 245, cat. 107, ill.

Exhibition History

Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005

Pilgrimage and Faith: Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 07/01/2011 - 10/24/2011

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted