Persian, Herat - Fragment of a Tombstone, about 1475

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Object details

Accession number

S12w2

Primary Creator

Persian, Herat

Full title

Fragment of a Tombstone

Creation Date

about 1475

Provenance


Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the antiquarian Mihran Sivadjian, Paris for 10,000 francs on 4 September 1901, through the American painter and collector Ralph W. Curtis (1854-1922) and Fernand Robert, her regular agent in Paris.

Marks

Inscribed (front side, upper panel, in plaited kufic script): Judgement is to God (Koran 21:66)
Inscribed (on left and right sides, in plaited kufic script): Judgement is to God. He is exalted.
Inscribed (top side, in naskhi script): This is the tomb of him whom glorious God has exalted by martyrdom after a life of abundance in the world through leader and the caliphate, and he is Sultan... (the remaining words have been erased)

Dimensions

114.3 x 36.2 x 32.4 cm (45 x 14 1/4 x 12 3/4 in.)

Display Media

Limestone

Web Commentary


This fragment of a tombstone is the most important work of Islamic art in the Gardner's collection.  With precise detail and remarkable depth, the sculptor's meticulous carving depicts a surface crawling with vines and surrounded by peony and lotus blossoms. Together they remind us of the Islamic concept of the afterlife as a garden and evoke the Timurid's esteem for Chinese art. The tombstone attests to the aesthetic refinement of the reign of the Timurid dynasty (1397–1501) in Iran and Central Asia and possibly comes from a mausoleum in their capital of Herat. This magnificent fragment's floral motifs likely appealed to Isabella, a legendary gardener who grew prize-winning peonies in her Brookline estate's greenhouses.

Permanent Gallery Location

East, North, and West Cloister

Bibliography

Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 4. (as "from the Mosque of Bokhara...belonged to Sultan Be-had-din"; early 15th century)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 81. (as Persian, early 15th century; as maybe from the Timurid mausoleum at Herat)
Helmut von Erffa. "A Tombstone of the Timurid Period in the Gardner Museum of Boston." Ars Islamica (1946), pp. 184-90, figs. 1-5. (as Herat school, about 1470-1475)
George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 76-77, ill. (as Persian, early 15th century; maybe from Herat)
Walter B. Denny. "Some Islamic Objects in the Gardner Museum." Fenway Court (1971), pp. 6-7, 9, fig. 3. (as Herat, about 1475)
Yasuko Horioka et al. Oriental and Islamic Art: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1975), pp. 125-27, no. 59. (as East Persian (Herat), about 1475-1490; probably by the same artist of a tombstone in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, accession no. MAO 342)
Walter B. Denny. "Far Eastern and Islamic Art" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), p. 80, fig. 7. (as East Persian, Herat, about 1475-1490)
Marthe Bernus-Taylor in Pierre Chuvin et al. (eds.). Les Arts de L'Asie Centrale: Collection Créée Par Lucien Mazenod (Paris, 1999), pp. 443, 448, fig. 543. (as Mavera al-Hahr or Khurasan, 2nd half of the 15th century)
Mary McWilliams in Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 164-65, ills. (as Iranian or Central Asian, about 1475)

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Commentary


This fragment of a tombstone is the most important work of Islamic art in the Gardner's collection.  With precise detail and remarkable depth, the sculptor's meticulous carving depicts a surface crawling with vines and surrounded by peony and lotus blossoms. Together they remind us of the Islamic concept of the afterlife as a garden and evoke the Timurid's esteem for Chinese art. The tombstone attests to the aesthetic refinement of the reign of the Timurid dynasty (1397–1501) in Iran and Central Asia and possibly comes from a mausoleum in their capital of Herat. This magnificent fragment's floral motifs likely appealed to Isabella, a legendary gardener who grew prize-winning peonies in her Brookline estate's greenhouses.