EBRĀHĪM MĪRZĀ, Safavid prince, patron, artist, and poet generally referred to as Solṭān Ebrāhīm Mīrzā (b. Ḏu’l-qaʿda 946/April 1540; d. 5 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 984/23 February 1577).

As grandson of Shah Esmāʿīl, son of prince Bahrām Mīrzā, and nephew (and eventually son-in-law) of Shah Ṭahmāsb, Ebrāhīm Mīrzā was almost naturally destined to be involved with the literary and visual arts. As with other members of the Safavid family, the prince’s artistic activities were quite varied, including the composition of poetry, the practice of calligraphy and painting, the sponsorship of poets, musicians, calligraphers, and other artists and of a ketāb-ḵāna (library), and the commissioning of deluxe manuscripts (Qāżī Aḥmad, pp. 106-19, 143-44; tr. Minorsky, pp. 3-11, 155-64, 183-84).

His training took place at the Safavid court with Ṭahmāsb taking a direct interest in his education. In 962/1554-55 the shah appointed him governor of Mašhad; the official farmān charges the then sixteen-year-old prince with supervising the city’s governmental and financial affairs and other general responsibilities (Ḵūzānī, fols. 216a-218b). Ebrāhīm Mīrzā arrived in Mašhad in Jomādā I 963/March 1556. At about this time he was betrothed to Ṭahmāsb’s eldest daughter, Gowhar-Solṭān Ḵānom; the marriage was consummated in the spring of 967/1560. Toward the end of 970/1562-63 he left Mašhad to take up the governorship of Ardabīl. En route, he seems to have condoned a joking remark about his new appointment that angered Ṭahmāsb (Qāżī Aḥmad, Ḵolāṣa I, p. 440). As a result, the posting to Ardabīl was withdrawn, and Ebrāhīm Mīrzā was sent instead to govern the small town of Qāʾen in Khorasan. This period of royal reprimand did not last very long, however, and by 973/1565-66 he was reinstated to his previous position at Mašhad. Within a year or two Ṭahmāsb removed the prince from Mašhad for the second and final time, apparently for his failure to assist in rescuing the shah’s besieged son Solṭān Moḥammad Mīrzā, and sent him to serve as governor in Sabzavār. (A full account of Ebrāhīm Mīrzā’s change of fortunes is given by Āšofta Naṭanzī, pp. 49-51.) In Ramażān 982/December 1574 the prince was recalled to the Safavid court at Qazvīn and appointed grand master of ceremonies (ešīk-āqāsī-bāšī). He was actively embroiled in the struggle for power following Ṭahmāsb’s death in Ṣafar 984/May 1576, in the end supporting Esmāʿīl II, who rewarded him with the position of keeper of the royal seal (mohrdār). Not long thereafter Ebrāhīm Mīrzā began to fall out of royal favor, and in less than a year he was murdered, along with other Safavid princes, on order of ʿEsmāʿīl II (Qāżī Aḥmad, Ḵolāṣa II, p. 634; Ḥasan Rūmlū, ed. Navāʾī, pp. 632-33, ed. and tr. Seddon, II, pp. 207-08; Eskandar Beg, I, p. 209, tr., I, p. 310).

Ebrāhīm Mīrzā emerged as a major patron of the arts at about the start of his original appointment to Mašhad, and he apparently spent much of his time as governor in the company of poets, musicians, composers, calligraphers, and painters. Among the literary and performing artists in his circle were the poet Ṯanāʾī Mašhadī and the musicians Solṭān Maḥmūd Ṭanbūraʾī and Qāsem Qānūnī of Herat (Qāżī Aḥmad, pp. 110, 112-14, tr. Minorsky, pp. 158-59, 163-64; Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 181-82, 191, tr., I, pp. 276, 281). The greatest legacy of his patronage in the visual arts is a magnificent volume of Jāmī’s Haft owrang dated 963-972/1556-65 and illustrated with twenty-eight paintings (Washington, D.C., Freer Gallery of Art, 46.12). That the prince’s subsequent resources as a patron were considerably reduced is evidenced by a modest manuscript of the Naqš-e badīʿ of Ḡazālī Mašhadī with two illustrations completed in Sabzavār in Moḥarram 982/April-May 1574 (Istanbul, Topkapi Sarayi Library, R. 1038).

The colophons in Ebrāhīm Mīrzā’s two surviving manuscripts specify that both were made by order of his library, indicating that the prince maintained an artistic workshop-cum-library during good times and bad (Farhad and Simpson, pp. 287-88; Simpson, 1993, pp. 106-10, 115-16; idem, forthcoming). Altogether nine individuals are documented as having worked for this library. They include the calligraphers Šāh-Maḥmūd Nīšābūrī, Rostam-ʿAlī, Moḥebb-ʿAlī (who served for a time as Ebrāhīm Mīrzā’s ketābdār “librarian”), Mālek Deylamī, ʿAyšī b. ʿEšratī, and Solṭān Moḥammad Ḵandān. Three other artists in the prince’s employ were noted primarily as painters and/or illuminators: ʿAbd-Allāh Šīrāzī, Shaikh Moḥammad, and ʿAlī-Asˊágar (Simpson, 1982, pp. 93, 98, 103 n. 38; idem, 1993, pp. 159-60; idem, forthcoming).

Ebrāhīm Mīrzā had a reputation as an artist in his own right, and is said to have been gifted in many aspects of the manuscript arts, including calligraphy, illumination, painting, and bookbinding (Qāżī Aḥmad, pp. 106, 115, 143; tr. Minorsky, pp. 155, 159-60; Simpson, forthcoming). The prince also had a life-long passion for poetry and composed verses in both Persian and Turkish. Several thousand lines of his poems, comprising qaṣīdas and ?azals in Persian and pieces in Turkish (torkīyāt) were compiled posthumously as a dīvān, of which two copies survive today (Tehran, Golestān Library, 2183, and Geneva, collection of Sadruddin Aga Khan, MS 33).


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Primary sources: The principal sources for his life and accomplishments are: Maḥmūd Āšofta Naṭanzī, Naqāwat al-āṯār, ed. E. Ešrāqī, Tehran, 1328 Š./1949, pp. 44-51.

Šaraf-al-Dīn Khan Bedlīsī, Šaraf-nāma, ed. V. Velyaminov-Zernov, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1860-62; tr. B. Charmoy as Cheref-nameh, ou Fastes de la nation kourde, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1868-75.

ʿAlī Efendī, Manāqeb-e honarvarān, ed. Ebn al-Amīn, Istanbul, 1926.

Ḵūzānī, Afżal al-tawārīḵ, British Library, ms. Or. 4678.

Qāżī Aḥmad, Ḵolāṣat al-tawārīḵ, ed. E. Ešrāqī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1359-63 Š./1980-84.

Ṣādeqī Beg, Majmaʿ al-ḵawāṣsá, tr. ʿA.-R. Ḵayyāmpūr, Tabrīz, 1327 Š./1948.

Selected secondary sources. Bayānī, Ḵošnevīsān I, pp. 9-13.

M. Dickson and S. C. Welch, The Houghton Shahnameh, Cambridge, Mass., 1981, I, pp. 36A, 45A-48B, 115B, 141B, 153A, 159B, 250B n. 8, 252 n. 8.

M. Farhad and M. S. Simpson, “Sources for the Study of Safavid Painting and Patronage, or Méfiez-vous de Qazi Ahmad,” Muqarnas 10, 1993, pp. 286-91.

M. S. Simpson, “The Production and Patronage of the Haft Awrang by Jami in the Freer Gallery of Art,” Ars Orientalis 13, 1982, pp. 93-119.

Idem, “Shaykh Muhammad,” in Persian Masters. Five Centuries of Painting, ed. S. Canby, Bombay, 1990, pp. 99-112.

Idem, “The Making of Manuscripts and the Workings of the Kitab-khana in Safavid Iran,” in The Artist’s Workshop, ed. P. Lukehart, Washington, D.C., 1993.

Idem, Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s "Haft Awrang.” A Deluxe Manuscript from Sixteenth Century Iran, Washington, D.C., forthcoming.

(Marianna S. Simpson)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

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