SANGLĀḴ, MIRZĀ MOḤAMMAD-ʿALI ḴORĀSĀNI (b. Qučān, Khorasan, date unknown; d. Tabriz, 17 Ṣafar 1294/ 3 March 1877), celebrated calligrapher and stone carver of the 19th century, as well as poet and author. Sanglāḵ’s professional career spanned the reigns of three Qajar monarchs, namely, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, Moḥammad Shah, and Nāṣer-al-Din Shah. According to the preface (dibāča) to his Taḏkerat al-ḵaṭṭāṭin, Sanglāḵ lived as a dervish and spent much of his time traveling, with long sojourns in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. He also traveled to Central Asia, Afghanistan and India, where he met with and instructed many calligraphers, gaining a considerable following as a result. He left behind numerous examples of his calligraphy that he produced during these trips.
Mirzā Sanglāḵ was a master of the nastaʿliq and šekasta scripts (FIGURE 1). His most famous and perhaps finest artistic contribution is an inscribed slab of carved marble of about 3.70 by 1.25 m., the entire surface of which is covered with Arabic and Persian poems and the epithets of the contemporary Ottoman monarch inscribed in fine nastaʿliq script. The stone was originally intended for the tomb of the Prophet Moḥammad in Medina, and took Mirzā Sanglāḵ eight years to complete while he was in Egypt (Qazvini, p. 108; Kārang, p. 73). He apparently had hoped to have it sent to Medina through the good offices of the Ottoman Empire, but the financial support that he expected did not materialize, and he refused to sell it for the prices he was offered. He eventually managed to bring it to Tabriz with the financial support of Mirzā Jaʿfar Khan Mošir-al-Dawla and Mirzā ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Khan, the Persian consul in Tbilisi. In Tabriz, it was eventually placed on a wall in the tomb of Sayyed Ebrāhim, near the grave of Mirzā Sanglāḵ. Mirzā Sanglāḵ is also the author of a number of other epigraphic works in nastaʿliq script, several of which were dedicated to the Moḥammad-ʿAli Pasha Mosque in Cairo. His major literary achievement is Emteḥān al-fożalāʾ, also known as Taḏkerat al-ḵaṭṭāṭin, a two-volume biographical dictionary of calligraphers written in a bombastic style that is filled with obscure Persian and Arabic vocabulary (Qazvini, p. 107; Bayāni, p. 799; FIGURE 2). It was first published by the author in an exquisitely lithographed edition, with the calligraphy of Moḥammad-ʿAli b. Jalil Tabrizi and illumination by Mirzā Moḥammad-ʿAli Moḏahheb of Isfahan (2 vols., Tabriz, 1874). He also authored a number of lesser known books, the most notable of which are Borj-e jawāher and Dorj-e ẓawāher (two collections of poems that were bound together in one book and published in Cairo in 1856; Mošār, III, Cols. 367-8) and Majmaʿ al-awṣāf (a collection of poems about him by others; see Bayāni, p. 799).
Taḏkerat al-ḵaṭṭāṭin is one of a handful of biographical dictionaries of calligraphers written in the 19th century. The book is divided into the following four sections: ancient and modern calligraphers, the account of the author’s travels, his pupils, and finally Ottoman calligraphers. Although the travel section and the account of his pupils are undoubtedly from the pen of Mirzā Sanglāḵ himself, Mehdi Bayāni, having compared this book with the one by Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ b. Abu Torāb Eṣfahāni, has concluded that much of the material included in Taḏkerat al-ḵaṭṭāṭin had been directly taken from the former work and concealed under a blanket of florid language filled with impertinent and even uncouth vocabulary (Bayāni, pp. 799-800; for an example see Qazvini, p. 107). Moḥammad Qazvini, who described Sanglāḵ as a fine calligrapher indulging in silly self-flattery (he referred to himself as Āftāb-e Ḵorāsān “the Sun of Ḵhorasan” and Dānā-ye Irān “the Sage of Iran”), considered this book devoid of any historical merit (Qazvini, pp. 106-7; Storey, p. 1077).
Mehdi Bayāni, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e ḵošnevisān, 4 vols., Tehran, 1966-79, III, pp. 797-800.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Al-Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār,Tehran, 1984, p. 292.
Ḥabib-Allāh Fażāʾeli, Aṭlas-e ḵaṭṭâ‰¤â‰¤, Tehran, 1984, p. 586. Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tāriḵe taḏkerahā-ye fārsi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1969-1971, II, pp. 574-75.
Clement Huart, Les Calligraphes et les Miniaturistes de l’Orient Musulman, Paris, 1908, p. 255.
Moḥammad-ʿAli-Karimzāda, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e Naqqāšān-e Qadim-e Irān, London, 1991, III, p. 1502, plate 16.
Moḥammad-ʿAli Kārang, Āṯār-e bāstāni-e Āḏarbāyjān: āṯār wa abniya-ye tāriḵi-e šahrestān-e Tabriz, I, pp. 70-74.
Ḵānbābā Mošār, Moʾallefīn-e kotob-e čāpī-e fārsī wa ʿarabī, 6 vols., Tehran, 1961-65.
Ḥājj Ḥosayn Naḵjavāni, “Tāriḵča-ye sang-e b’ism-Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥim dar Boqʿa-ye Sayyed Ebrāhim,” MDA Tabriz 4/1-2, 1950, pp. 19-27.
Moḥammad Qazvini, “Wafayāt-e moʿāṣerin: Mirzā Sanglāḵ,” Yādgār 5/1, 1948, pp. 106-8.
Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968, p. 119.
Charles A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bibliographical Survey I/2, London, 1972, pp. 1077-78.
Originally Published: April 7, 2008
Last Updated: April 7, 2008