Report of the grant I received for my trip to India:
Published on February 3, 2017
Written by Naciem Nikkah

The travel grant offered by the British Institute of Persian Studies helped me to defray the
expenses incurred during my fieldwork trip to India. I am currently starting the third year of my
Ph.D., specialising in sixteenth -and seventeenth -century Persian albums. A typical Persian
album consists of bound single pages of calligraphy and painting, each individually composed
within an illuminated border. In my research, I am applying a methodology for the systematic
analysis of the poetry selected for the album collections. With the aim of analysing albums in
their entirety, I first deconstruct the album to consider the text separately from the image; then I
bring them together to evaluate the work as a whole. Identifying the poems further will shed light
on the role of the patron/collector’s taste in the selection of poetry, and his literary awareness and
aspirations. Selected verses of poetry that were chosen to be written in elaborate sheets of
calligraphy or painting were collected by rulers and courtiers of Safavid Persia (1501-1722),
Mughal India (1526-1707), and Ottoman Turkey (between 1512-1730).

Between 19 January and 3 February, 2017, I travelled to India, where I visited the archives and
museum collections of three cities: New Delhi, Rampur, and Hyderabad. Visiting the collection
of National Archive, and the National Museum in New Delhi proved unhelpful as they did not
contain any sixteenth – seventeenth-century albums, or single-page paintings that had been
composed with pasted pieces of calligraphy as the border for a painted image. However, I was
told by two researchers at the Agha Khan Institute in New Delhi that the National Museum does
have several albums from the above-mentioned centuries, but due to the curatorial staff turnover,
the museum is not keen to assist scholars in their research and easily dismisses any requests.

However, I was warmly accepted at the Raza Library in Rampur. The library owns many singlepages
of painting. The collection does not include an intact album of any sort, but the pages are
held individually and are mainly framed with modern whiteboards. Since all single-page
paintings had been scanned, I was able to review the digitized images, and obtain copies for my
research. The main issue with the paintings I wished to see in Rampur was the lack of access to
the paintings. When I asked to see some paintings, the director said that unfortunately, they
cannot be found in the treasury.

In Hyderabad, at the Salar Jung Museum, I was successful in viewing some Deccani albums, and
two calligraphy albums that were not in good conditions and could have been dated to the
eighteenth century.

My travel to India allowed me to engage with Iranian academics and professionals specialising in
the art of Persian painting while conducting museum and archival research. I am grateful to the
British Institute of Persian Studies for their generous support and to have been selected for this
grant.

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