Makhzan al-asrar (Treasury of secrets) by Haydar Khwarazmi (d.1414?)

View right to left

Calligrapher: Mir Ali Haravi (died ca. 1550)
Historical period(s)
Safavid period, 1577-78 ? (985 A.H. ?)
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W x D (closed): 33.1 x 21 x 2.1 cm (13 1/16 x 8 1/4 x 13/16 in)
Iran (present-day Afghanistan), Khurasan
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Henri Vever collection, Iran, nasta'liq script, Safavid period (1501 - 1722)

To 1908
Reza Khan Monif, Paris, France. [1]

From 1908 to 1942
Henri Vever (1854-1942), Paris and Noyers, France, purchased from Reza Khan Monif, Paris, France on April 9, 1908. [2]

From 1942 to 1986
Family member, Paris and Boulogne, France, by inheritance from Henri Vever, Paris and Noyers, France. [3]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from a family member, Paris and Boulogne, France. [4]


[1] See Susan Nemazee, "Appendix 7: Chart of Recent Provenance" in An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection, Glenn D. Lowry et al (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1988), p. 400. See also Glen D. Lowry and Susan Nemazee, "Appendix 2: Ledger of Acquisitions, 1894 and 1907-17" in A Jeweler’s Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1988), p. 229.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See the Agreement for the Purchase and Sale of the Henri Vever Collection of January 9, 1986, Collections Management Office.

[4] See note 3.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Reiza Khan Monif
Henri Vever 1854-1942
Francois Mautin 1907-2003


Nizami's Makhzan al-asrar (Treasury of secrets) inspired the poet Mir Haydar Khawrazmi, active in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, to compose his own version of the didactic poem in Chagatay Turkish. In this illustration, the Ghaznavid ruler Sultan-Mahmud encounters a disheveled Sufi dervish (ascetic) in a ruin outside the city. Rather than rejoicing in the king's presence, the ascetic criticizes him for his pursuit of worldly riches and disregard for the afterlife. When Sultan-Mahmud asks the Sufi about his readiness for death, the old man smiles and drops dead in front of him.

Most illustrations of this anecdote focus on a slightly later and more visually dramatic moment in the narrative, when the dervish has already expired. Here, the artist has represented the philosophical and theological exchange between the two men.

Published References
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Susan Nemanzee. A Jeweler's Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection. Washington and Seattle. cat. 27, pp. 116-117.
  • Sabiha Al Khemir. Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture. Exh. cat. Utah. pp. 130-131, p. 217.
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Milo Cleveland Beach, Elisabeth West FitzHugh, Susan Nemanzee, Janet Snyder. An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection. Washington and Seattle. cat. 167, pp. 133-135.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.