© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

The works in this case were produced during the reigns of two dynasties that forged empires in the Iranian region: the Timurids (1370–1506) and the Safavids (1501–1722). The Central Asian warlord Timur concentrated in his capital city of Samarkand artists gathered from a vast empire stretching from Syria to India. Timur’s descendants ruled over a greatly reduced realm—parts of Iran and Afghanistan—but gained renown as patrons of the arts. The Timurid system of organizing artists into workshops in which designs were developed for the book arts and for dissemination into other media was emulated by later dynasties, notably the Safavids and Ottomans. Arising in northwestern Iran, the Safavids united all of greater Iran under their rule and established Shiʿi Islam as the state religion, as distinct from the Sunni branch practiced in the surrounding states.

Cultural exchange and industrial competition increased in these centuries, both across and beyond Islamic lands. Responding to the courts’ avid consumption of Chinese blue-and-white wares, Persian potters appropriated Chinese shapes, compositions, and motifs in their own works. In contrast, the colorful dish with scale patterns probably reflects the highly successful products of the Ottoman kilns to the west, in Iznik.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Torch stand (mash`al)
Lighting Devices
Work Type
lighting device
late 16th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Western Iran
Safavid period
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
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."
William H. Folwell, Philadelphia (by 1878). Mrs. May Folwell Hoisington, Rye, NY, (by Mrs. Elizabeth L. Barton, Kirby Lane, Rye, NY, (by 1953), sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1953.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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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.)
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

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu