A manuscript of the Gulistan (Rosegarden) by Sa’di; Sa’di in a Rose garden

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Artist: Attributed to Payag (active ca.1591-ca.1658) Attributed to Abid Attributed to Govardhan Attributed to Balchand Attributed to Murar
Calligrapher: Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi
Patron: Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658)
Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Shah Jahan, Text dated 1468, illumination added early 16th c., paintings repainted ca. 1645
Ink, gold, and opaque watercolor on paper
H x W (open): 25.4 x 33.9 cm (10 x 13 3/8 in)
India and Iran
Credit Line
Gift of the Art and History Trust in honor of Ezzat-Malek Soudavar
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Gulistan, India, Iran, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658), rose

Shah Tahmasp (reigned 1524-1576), Persia [1]

From at least 1558
Akbar (reigned 1556-1605), India, from at least 1558 [2]

Mughal Imperial Library [3]

From at least 1644
Jahan-ara, daughter of Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658), from at least 1644 [4]

Marquis of Bute, England [5]

To 1998
The Art and History Trust, Liechtenstein, to 1998

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, given by the Art and History Trust in 1998 [6]


[1] According to Curatorial Note 1, Massumeh Farhad, March 16, 1998, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1. Shah-Jahan, was the grandson of Akbar.

[5] According to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record.

[6] The Art and History Trust was established in 1991 by Abolala Soudavar and his family of distinguished bibliophiles. Gathered over a period of some thirty years, the collection is presently on long-term loan to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. However, this particular manuscript was given in honor of Ezzat-Malek Soudavar to the Freer Gallery of Art on the occasion of its seventy-fifth anniversary (see Curatorial Note 4, Massumeh Farhad, August 18, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Jahan-ara, daughter of Shah Jahan
The Art and History Trust
Mughal Imperial Library
Shah Tahmasp 1524-1576
Akbar reigned 1556-1605
Shah Jahan reigned 1628-1658


This copy of Gulistan (Rosegarden), a collection of moralizing tales and aphorisms composed by the Persian poet Sa'di, is one of the most impressive manuscripts from Iran and India. Apart from its superb calligraphy, illustrations, and illumination, the volume serves as a fascinating historical document, highlighting the complex artistic and cultural relationship between the Mughals of India (reigned 1526-1858), and the Timurids (reigned ca. 1370-1502) and the Safavids (reigned 1501-1732), who ruled neighboring Iran. 

It was copied in 1468 by the celebrated Persian calligrapher Sultan Ali Mashhadi in the Timurid capital of Herat. Sometime during the early sixteenth century, the margins of its first sixteen folios were lavishly illuminated. The exquisite design, consisting of arabesques with mythical and real animals in fierce combat or intricate floral motifs, have been attributed to Aqa Mirak, one of the leading artists of the court of  Shah Tahmasb (reigned 1524-76), the second Safavid ruler and remarkable patron of the arts. During the rule of Akbar, the third emperor of the Mughal dynasty in India (reined 1556-1605), which claimed descent for the Timurids, this manuscript went to India and entered the royal library. As great admirers of Timurid political and cultual achievements, the Mughals were avid collectors of Timurid works of art, especially illustrated manuscripts.

Published References
  • Lieutenant-Colonel K. R. Kirtikar, Major B. D. Basu. Indian Medicinal Plants. 2 vols., Bahadurganj, India. .
  • Elizabeth B. Moynihan. The New Cambridge History of India. 4 vols., New York and Cambridge. Part 1, vol. 3: pp. 138, 139.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 16, 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E, 16F, pp. 93-8.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 148.
  • Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran, 1501-1576. Exh. cat. Milan. pp. 178-79, 332-38.
  • Abolala Soudavar, Milo Cleveland Beach. Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection. New York. cat. 136, pp. 332-8.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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