ʿALĪ QĀʾENĪ, usually known as SOLṬĀN-ʿALĪ, calligrapher active in Herat and Tabrīz during the late 9th/15th and early 10th/16th centuries. Nothing is known of his family, though his nesba suggests a connection with the region of Qāʾen southwest of Herat. Both his calligraphic style and the texts he copied underscore his ties to the latter city. M. Bayānī suggests he studied with one of Bāysonḡor’s principal calligraphers, Aẓhar Tabrīzī. A text in Solṭān-ʿAlī’s hand states that it was copied from a work by mawlānā (our master) Jaʿfar Bāysonḡorī. Many of the texts he copied were either by Herati authors or otherwise connected with Timurid culture: the complete Dīvān of Jāmī, the Turkic Dīvān of ʿAlī-Šīr Navāʾī, and Šaraf-al-dīn ʿAlī Yazdī’s life of Tīmūr. Writing in 896/1490-91, ʿAlī-Šīr Navāʾī describes Solṭān-ʿAlī as an ascetic youth formerly connected with ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī. When in the latter’s entourage, he concentrated on copying Jāmī’s works.

Despite these strong ties to Herat, the majority of Solṭān-ʿAlī’s known works were produced in Tabrīz for the Āq Qoyunlū rulers Yaʿqūb (r. 883-96/1478-90) and Rostam (r. 898-902/1493-97). In Tabrīz Solṭān-ʿAlī often used the nesba “al-Yaʿqūbī” or “al-Rostamī,” but pieces signed “al-Qāʾenī” are also known. It is uncertain what first drew him to Tabrīz but ʿAlī-Šīr Navāʾī mentions that he spent several years in Mecca, so perhaps he passed through Tabrīz on the pilgrimage. Manuscripts and qeṭʿas produced for Yaʿqūb Āq Qoyunlū give evidence of the latter’s royal ambitions before his accession to the throne. A manuscript noted by M. Bayānī and dated to 882/1477-78 gives Yaʿqūb’s titulature as “Abu’l-Moẓaffar Ḡāzī Šāh-e Jahān Yaʿqūb.” This date encompasses both the death of Uzun Ḥasan (Ramażān/January) and the struggle between his heirs that ensued. Another manuscript copied by Solṭān-ʿAlī for Yaʿqūb is dated to Jomādā I, 883/August, 1478, just a few weeks after the latter’s accession to the throne. Towards the end of his life Solṭān-ʿAlī probably returned to Herat. An undated copy of ʿAlī-Šīr’s Ḡarāʾeb al-ṣeḡar now in Istanbul has illustrations similar to those produced for Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā in Herat during the 1490s. M. Bayānī’s suggestion that Solṭān-ʿAlī is the scribe of the 908/1502-03 manuscript of Jamāl o Jalāl now in Uppsala would also place him in Herat. The time and place of Solṭān-ʿAlī’s death are uncertain; a taḏkera gives 914/1508 as his death date. Aside from the intrinsic value of the manuscripts he copied, his chief importance lies in his transmission to western Iran, particularly Tabrīz, of the taste of Timurid Herat in both calligraphy and literature.


ʿAlī-Šīr Navāʾī, Maǰāles al-nafāʾes, ed. ʿA. A. Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1332 Š./1953, pp. 101, 274.

Bayānī, Ḵošnevīsān, pp. 236-41.

F. Çağman, “The Miniatures of the Divan-i Hüseyni and the Influence of their Style,” Fifth International Congress of Turkish Art, Budapest, pp. 233-34, figs. 7-10.

Dōst Moḥammad, A Treatise on Calligraphists and Miniaturists, ed. M. Chagtai, Lahore, 1936, p. 16.

P. Soucek, “The Arts of Calligraphy,” in The Arts of the Book in Central Asia, London, 1979, pp. 28, 30, pl. IV.

K. V. Zetterstéen and C. J. Lamm, Moḥammad Āṣafī: the Story of Jamāl and Jalāl, Uppsala, 1948, pp. 27-28, p. 36.

(P. P. Soucek)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 1, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, p. 870

Cite this entry:

P. P. Soucek, “ʿALĪ QĀʾENĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, p. 870, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-qaeni-calligrapher (accessed on 30 December 2012).