Torch Stand (Mash`al)
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1955.92.D
Title
Torch stand (mash`al)
Classification
Lighting Devices
Work Type
lighting device
Date
late 16th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Western Iran
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands
View this objects location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brass
Technique
Incised
Dimensions
H. 40 x Dia. 22.5 cm (15 3/4 x 8 7/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Inscription in Persian (Top): "Sometimes my soul burns with love of the beauties,/ Sometimes my heart bleeds./ Every moment, passion burns me with a new brand./ Like the moth, I seek a candle./ If I advance I burn my wing./(Bottom:) Be on guard the smoke of the burning heart./ At times the burning of my heart burns both world and place./ Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns./ At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn. Translation (Top): "Gah dil az `eshq-i butân gah jigar-am mîsûzad / `Eshq har lahza ba-dâgh-i digar-am mîsûzad / Hamchô parvâna ba-sham` ... sar ô kâr-îst marâ / Gah agar pêsh ravam bâl ô par-am mîsûzam." [2 distichs from an ode by Mollâ Heyratî Tûnî (d. 1553-4)]. (Bottom): "Dar hizr bâsh za dûd-i dil-i por âtash-i man / Gah sûz-i dil-i man kaun ô makân mîsûzad / Hamchô sham`-am hame shab rishta-i jân mîsûzad / Gah yekî âh kasham har dô jahân mîsûzad."
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
1955
Object Number
1955.92.D
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Torch stands, which held oil and a wick rather than a candle, were a popular form of lighting in the Safavid era. The following poem, by a Khorasani poet named Mulla Heyrati Tuni, is inscribed in nastaliq script in two bands near the top and bottom of this piece:
Sometimes my soul burns with love for the beautiful ones, sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment passion burns me with a new brand.
Like a moth, I seek the candle.
If I advance, I burn my wing.
Be on guard, the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the fire of my heart burns both world and heaven.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.

(Notes from Glory and Prosperity exhibition, Feb - June 2002.)

Label Text: Islamic Art: The Power of Pattern, written 1989
Candlestick
Inscribed in Persian:

Sometimes my soul burns with love of the beauties,
Sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment, passion burns me with a new brand.
Like the moth, I seek a candle.
If I advance I burn my wing.

Be on guard the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the burning of my heart burns both world and place.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.

Western Iran, Safavid, late 16th century
Cast and incised bronze
Friends of the Fogg Art Museum
1955.92

Label Text: Divinely Inspired: Images of Mystics and Mendicants, written 1999
Torch Stand (Mash'al)
Western Iran, Safavid period, late 16th century
Cast and engraved bronze
Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
1955.92d

A number of mash’als or torch stands have survived that are beautifully engraved with floral and vegetal ornament, and Persian inscriptions. Originally, this stand would have held a receptacle at the top for oil and a wick, and was probably commissioned as part of a waqf or pious endowment for a religious institution. The inscription, engraved in nasta’liq script, is a mystical ode or ghazal by Mulla Heyrati Tuni, a Khurasani poet who later settled in Kashan in Western Iran where he died in 15 5 3/5 4. One distich in the ghazal makes reference to an image familiar in Sufi poetry, that of a moth drawn to a flame, symbolizing the soul 's longing to reach complete annihi lation (fana’) in the all-consuming presence of Goel.
Inscribed on the top register:
Sometimes my soul burns with love for the beautiful ones,
sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment passion burns me with a new brand.
Like a moth, I seek the candle.
If I advance, I burn my wing.
And on the lower register:
Be on guard, the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the fire of my heart burns both ·world and heaven.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.

Label Text: Pattern and Purpose. Decorative Arts of Islam., written 1994
Candlestick
Inscribed in Persian, in nasta'liq script:
Sometimes my soul burns with love of the beauties, sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment, passion burns me with a new brand. Like the moth, I seek a candle.
If I advance I shall burn my wing.
Be on guard the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the burning of my heart burns both world and place.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.
Western Iran, Safavid, late 16th century
Cast and incised bronze
Purchase by the Friends of the Fogg Art Museum
1955.92

Label Text: Saints, Shrines and Pilgrimages, written 1991
Candlestick
Inscribed in Persian, nasta'lîq script:
Sometimes my soul burns with love of the beauties,
Sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment, passion burns me with a new brand.
Like the moth, I seek a candle.
If I advance I burn my wing.

Be on guard the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the burning of my heart burns both world and place.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.

Western Iran, Safavid, late 16th century
Bronze, cast and incised
Friends of the Fogg Art Museum
1955.92

Label Text: Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, written 2002
Torch Stand
Iran, Safavid, late 16th century
Brass
Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
1955.92D

Torch stands, which held oil and a wick rather than acandle, were a popular form of lighting in the Safavid era. The following poemis inscribed innasta'liqscript in two bands near the top and bottomof this piece:
Sometimes my soul burns with love for the beautifulones, sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment passion burns me with a new brand.
Like a moth, I seek the candle.
If I advance, I burn my wing.
Be on guard, the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the fire of my heart burns both world and heaven.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.

Label Text: From the Way of the Favored: Objects from the World of Islam, written 1988
Candlestick
Inscribed in Persian, in nasta’liq script:
Sometimes my soul burned with love of the beauties,
sometimes my heart bleeds.
Every moment, passion burns me with a new brand.
Like the moth, I seek a candle.
If I advance I shall burn my wing.

Be on guard the smoke of the burning heart.
At times the burning of my heart burns both world and place.
Like the candle, all night the wick of my soul burns.
At times, I draw a single sigh and both worlds burn.


Western Iran, Safavid, late 16th century
Bronze, cast and incised
Purchase from the Friends of the Fogg Art Museum
1955.92d

Publication History

Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), p. 12, cat. 79

Melanie Michailidis, Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, brochure, ed. Marsha Pomerantz, Harvard University Art Museums (2002), p. 8, fig. 11

Exhibition History

Islamic Art: Drawings, Calligraphies and Objects, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/29/1983 - 09/25/1983

The Heavenly Court: Persian Poetry and Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/09/1985 - 03/31/1985

Islamic Art: The Power of Pattern, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/23/1989 - 01/17/1990

Saints, Shrines and Pilgrimages, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/06/1991 - 06/09/1991

American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994

Divinely Inspired: Images of Mystics and Mendicants, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/16/1999 - 03/29/1999

The Continuous Stroke of a Breath: Calligraphy from the Islamic World, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/20/2003 - 07/18/2004

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

Related Works
Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted