ḠOLĀM-REŻĀ ḴOŠNEVIS Eṣfahāni, Mirzā (b. Tehran, 1245/1829-30; d. Tehran, 1304/1886-87), a calligrapher and epigraphist of late 19th-century Persia. He was a master of the nastaʿliq, šekasta-nastaʿliq, and šekasta scripts (see CALLIGRAPHY) and signed his works with the invocation “Yā ʿAli madad” or “Ḡolām-Reżā, Yā ʿAli madadast.”
Little is known about Ḡolām-Reżā’s life. A handful of letters, petitions, and a biographical note by one of his students found in a large moraqqaʿ or album (now in the Central Library of Tehran University) provide a glimpse into his career (Bayāni, Ḵošnevisān II, pp. 550-56). His father, Mirzā Jān, had moved to Tehran, where he had a confectionery store. Ḡolām-Reżā was still an adolescent when his distinct talent for calligraphy was brought to the attention of Moḥammad Shah Qājār (1250-64/1834-48), who took a special interest in his work and, after a series of examinations, assigned him to train a number of princes, princesses, and court officials. Under Moḥammad Shah’s patronage, he penned a fine manuscript of the Toḥfat al-wozarāʾ (probably identical with Toḥfat al-moluk of the 19th-century author Jaʿfar b. Esḥāq Musawi), which bears the date 1259/1843-44 and is preserved in the former Imperial Library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye salṭanati) in Tehran (Bayāni, Ḵošnevisān II, p. 555).
Moḥammad Shah’s death was a turning point in Ḡolām-Reżā’s career. He remained active and continued to train young calligraphers in the privacy of his home. Among his outstanding pupils, Shaikh Moḥammad Majd-al-Kottāb and Mirzā Ebrāhim Ṭehrāni, known as Mirzā ʿAmu, are noteworthy (Rāhjiri, 1976, p. 88). As a gesture of respect, many of his students signed their works with the same invocation as their master.
Although Ḡolām-Reżā obtained commissions from Moḥammad Shah’s son and successor, Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (1264-1313/1848-96), he did not receive the same favorable treatment from him and his court. He lost his teaching job when he was accused of involvement in the Babi movement (see BABISM), which almost cost him his life. He was pardoned, however, after pleading to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, but his classes were closed down. In a letter to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, he mentioned his lack of income and asked to be appointed as the librarian of the crown prince (Bayāni, Ḵošnevisān II, pp. 553-54).
Ḡolām-Reżā also worked under the patronage of Dust-Moḥammad Khan Moʿayyer-al-Mamālek, who, along with other members of the Qajar ruling elite, commissioned Ḡolām-Reżā to pen several copies of the extempore prayers (monājāt-nāma) of ImamʿAli. Although this association was initially rewarding, he was accused of forgery, which would have cost him the loss of his hands if Dust-Moḥammad Khan had not pleaded on his behalf to the king.
Ḡolām-Reżā’s large corpus of works includes numerous copies of manuscripts, moraqqaʿs or albums, single pages of calligraphy, and epigraphic works. They can be found in major libraries in Tehran, in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and in private collections (Bayāni, Ḵošnevisān II, p. 556; Rāhjiri, 1976, pp. 87-88). The best-known examples of his work are the calligraphic friezes he made for the Madrasa-ye Sepahsālār in Tehran.
Plate I. A mašq or practice piece in nastaʿlīq script signed by Ḡolām-Reżā Eṣfahāni and dated 1288/1871-72. 34 x 19.7 cm. After Moraqqaʿ-e zarrīn, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, al-Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, ed. Iraj Afšār as Čehel sāl tāriḵ-e Irān dar dawra-ye pādšāhi-e Nāṣer-al-Din Šāh, 3 vols., Tehran, 1363-68 Š./1984-89, p. 275.
Ḥabib-Allāh Fażaʾēli, Aṭlas-e ḵaṭṭ: taḥqiq dar ḵoṭuṭ-e eslāmi, Isfahan, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 573-75.
ʿAli Rāhjiri, “Ḡolām-Reżā Eṣfahāni,” Honar o mardom, no. 167, 2535 (1355) Š./1976, pp. 84-88.
Idem, Taḏkera-ye ḵošnevisān-e moʿāṣer, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985, I, pp. 26-27.
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 9, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 61-62