Khalili Collection, MS. 727
Jami‛ al-Tawarikh of Rashid al-Din.


Tabriz, Iran
dated 714 AH (1314–15 AD)
ink, translucent and opaque watercolour, gold and silver on paper
text copied in naskh script; 35 lines to the page
60 folios; 43.5 x 30cm
ex-Royal Asiatic Society and Khosrovani Collections

This copy of the Jami‘ al-Tawarikh is without doubt one of the greatest illustrated medieval manuscripts of either East or West. The folios in the Khalili Collection, together with those in the Edinburgh University Library, are the earliest surviving Arabic version of this monumental work. The manuscript must have belonged to the Timurid ruler Shahrukh, for his seal appears on folio 11a of the Khalili manuscript.

The Jami‘ al-Tawarikh

Rashid al-Din Fadlallah (circa 645–718 AH/ 1247–1318 AD) was a Muslim convert from a Jewish family in Hamadan. His father was an apothecary and he himself trained as a physician, entering the service of the Ilkhan Abaqa (r 1265–1282). On Ghazan’s accession in 694 AH (1295 AD), he gained an enduring position at the summit of state affairs, until rivalry provoked by the Mongol system of dividing power among viziers led to his disgrace and execution in 1318. Enormously rich, Rashid al-Din Fadlallah endowed pious institutions throughout the Ilkhanid domains. Among these, his multi-functional funerary complex, the Rab‘-i Rashidi, at Tabriz, which included a scriptorium to produce and distribute copies of his works, was the most splendid. Yet he was not merely a great administrator: his interests included theology, agriculture, horticulture and especially history, and he was commanded by Ghazan to compile a history of his reign. This was presented to his successor, Öljeytü (r 1304–1316), who commanded him, as a memorial to Ghazan, to enlarge the work to provide a history of all the peoples with whom the Mongols had come into contact.

This was the Jami‘ al-Tawarikh (‘Compendium of Chronicles’), which was to be in four parts: (1) the history of the Mongols from Jenghiz Khan to the death of Ghazan; (2) a history of Öljeytü, followed by a long universal history from Adam, the biblical patriarchs and the ancient kings of Persia to the Prophet Muhammad and the caliphs; (3) the ‘Five Dynasties’ of the Arabs, the Jews, the Mongols, the Franks and the Chinese; and (4) a geographical compendium. The history of Öljeytü and the geographical compendium are lost, and the principal illustrated section appears to have been the world history, now in two different fascicles (one in Edinburgh University Library, the other the Khalili manuscript), which were haphazardly rebound in the 18th century. Together they comprise about half a manuscript of 400 folios or so, recording the history of the non-Mongol peoples of Eurasia. The very possibility of its compilation reflects the cosmopolitan culture of early14th-century Tabriz, where texts in Latin, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Mongolian, Chinese and Sanskrit were available and everything from Chinese handscrolls to Old Testaments and Gospels from northern Europe could be used as appropriate illustrative material.

Interestingly, for some of the scenes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the painters had recourse to adaptations of Christian scenes, which suggests that illustrated copies of the life of the Prophet may not have been available. They made great use of chinoiserie motifs, and their use of wash and line rather than opaque watercolour gives a superficial similarity to recently excavated Yuan tomb-paintings in Inner Mongolia. However, their elongated figures, expressive features and mannered gestures are more in the tradition of later Byzantine painting. The use of silver (now oxidised) for the modelling of faces and their features is likewise very un-Chinese.

Illustrations in the Khalili manuscript

The Prophet Muhammad and the Caliphate
Folio 5a (66a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The Prophet Muhammad exhorting his kinsmen before the battle of Badr
14 x 25.5cm

Folio 6a (67a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The Prophet Muhammad leading the Hamzah and the Muslims against the Banu Qaynuqa‘
12 x 25.5cm

Folio 8a (72a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The Prophet Muhammad receiving the submission of the Banu’l-Nadir
12 x 25.5cm

– China
Folio 9a (249a of the reconstructed manuscript)
First Shang emperor

Folio 9b (249b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Founder of the Zhou dynasty

Folio 10b (250b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Seven emperors of the Warring States

Folio 11a (251a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Founder of the Qin and Han dynasties;
with the seal of Shahrukh

Folio 11b (251b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Emperor Wang Mang of the Xin dynasty

Folio 12a (252a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Three emperors of the Eastern Han dynasty

Folio 12b (252b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Three emperors of the Three Kingdoms

Folio 13a (253a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Founder of the Jin dynasty

Folio 13b (253b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Two emperors of the Six Dynasties

Folio 14a (254a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Two emperors of the Qi and Liang dynasties

Folio 14b (254b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Xuandi of the Later Liang [see illustration]

Folio 15a (255a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Founder of the Chen dynasty

Folio 16b (256b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Nine emperors of the Tang dynasty

Folio 17a (257a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Twelve emperors of the Song dynasty

Folio 17b (257b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Nine emperors of the Jin dynasty

– India
Folio 21a (261a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The mountains of India
12 x 14 cm [see illustration]

Folio 22a (262a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The mountains between India and Tibet (with a female pilgrim in Indian dress)
15 x 25.5cm

Folio 25a (265a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Battle of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (a scene from the Indian epic, the Mahabharata)
10.5 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 27a (267a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The execution of Jalal al-Din Firuzshah II (the Khalji sultan of Delhi, r 1290–1296) by his rebellious nephew
13 x 25.5cm

Folio 28b (268b of the reconstructed manuscript)
The nobles of Kashmir enthrone a faqir as King Yashaskara (r 939–948)
10.5 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 30b (270b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Ravana, king of Lanka and king of the demons, lies dead before Rama (a scene from the Indian epic, the Ramayana)
12 x 25.5cm

Folio 34a (274a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Shakyamuni offering fruit to the devil (from the life of the Buddha)
9.5 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 36b (276b of the reconstructed manuscript)
The Grove of Jetavana (or more likely, as has been suggested recently, Nagavrka, Maitreya’s tree of englightenment)
10.5 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 37b (277b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Kushinagara, where the Buddha achieved Nirvana; 11.5 x 17cm

– The Jews
Folio 45a (285a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Noah’s Ark
14 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 47b (287b of the reconstructed manuscript)
Jacob, with three of his sons and his two wives, Leah and Rachel
12 x 25.5cm

Folio 48a (288a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Joseph his robe torn by Potiphar’s wife (Zulaykha), appears before Potiphar
10.5 x 14cm

Folio 49a ( 289a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Joseph and his brethren
10.5 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 52a (292a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Moses commands the Levites to behead those who had worshipped the Golden Calf
13 x 25.5cm

Folio 54a (294a of the reconstructed manuscript)
The death of Moses on Mount Nebo
11 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

Folio 56a (296a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Saul, abandoned by Jehovah, is defeated by the Philistines and falls on his sword
13 x 25.5cm (max)

Folio 59a (299a of the reconstructed manuscript)
Jonah and the whale
12 x 25.5cm [see illustration]

 

S.S. Blair, A Compendium of Chronicles. Rashid al-Din’s Illustrated History of the World, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XXVII, London 1995.

J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.180–97, pp.156–65.

Source: Khalili Collection, MS. 727



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