November 23

I purchased this Persian miniature in the bazaar of Esfahan, in the workshop of an old master of miniature painting. The image represents Sheherezade who originally most probably held a wine cup in her hand, but for the sake of Gyuri let us regard it as a cup of tea.

The image is beautiful and it follows the best traditions of Persian miniature painting. But the inscription above and on the reverse of it is not any less interesting, being more than a hundred years older than the picture itself. In fact, the master usually paints his works on the leaves of the discarded old workbooks of the local school of theology, by this not only increasing the “archaic” atmosphere of the image, but often enriching its meaning as well.

On the two sides of this leaf the one-time talib or student of theology wrote a prayer in Arabic with black ink and in careful hand, and then he also scrawled between the black lines, with red ink and in hasty handwriting, the meaning of the phrases in Persian. I leave for the Semitic philological wisdom of Gyuri to decipher the Arabic verses, and it is only the Persian text of which now I give a concise translation, and later a Persian and Latin transcription as well.

My ears and my tongue remember You. In my heart I keep the memory of Your love and care. I confess that I did wrong, and I humbly ask You for mercy. For You look at me with love, and I bow in front of You, and strive after worshiping You. I recommend myself into Your mercy, indulgence and benignity. Oh my God, look at me, for You know my affliction. Protect me from the devil, from the wickedness of the world, from all evil things and from any long-enduring ordeal.

The master was away, and his son told me that at this time he regularly teaches the art of traditional miniature painting at the local school of art. I requested him to ask his father when he comes back to attach some lines of recommendation to the miniature that I purchased as a gift. The master did so indeed, signing his good wishes with a sketchy self-portrait instead of a signature:

For George with affection and remembrance on his fortieth birthday. [In the year of the Hijra] 1386, the 6th day of the month of Aban.

Happy birthday, Gyuri!

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