GOLŠAN ALBUM (Moraqqaʿ-e golšan), a sumptuous 11th/17th-century album of paintings, drawings, calligraphy, and engravings by Mughal, Persian, Deccani, Turkish, and European artists in the Golestān Palace Library (the former Ketāb-ḵāna-ye salṭanati), Tehran (no. 1663). It was in Nāṣer-al-Din Shah Qājār’s possession when he was still the crown prince in Tabriz (see his notations on piece 113 and page 91, the latter dated 1 Jomādā II 1263/17 May 1847). Its provenance before reaching the royal library is unknown, although it has been suggested, without any hard evidence, that it was brought to Persia by Nāder Shah Afšār when he returned from his Indian campaign in 1153/1741 (Ātābāy, 1974, pp. 10-11; idem, 1996, p. 182).

Aḥmad Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri (p. 18) has suggested that the album probably once belonged to Mirzā Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Wafā Farāhāni, the learned, bibliophile vizier of Fārs under the last Zand monarchs, whose library, as described by Sir Harford Jones Brydges, of 755 volumes of “the rarest, the most beautifully bound, the most beautifully written and illuminated, that could possibly be imagined” was confiscated by Āḡā Moḥammad Khan Qājār (Jones Brydges, introd., pp. cxlviii, cliii-clv, clvii, cxc).

The Golšan Album, as it exists today, includes leaves from a very similar album known as Moraqqaʿ-e golestān (no. 1664). Nāṣer-al-Din Shah is said (Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi, 1967, pp. 40-41) to have initially kept one of these two albums in the Royal Library and the other in the Library of the private quarters (andarun; q.v.) of the palace precinct, but later he had them bound in a new single volume. The two original bindings, along with five folios from the Album, were recently offered for sale in Geneva (personal communications with Milo Beach, 26 March 2001, and with Abolala Soudavar, 1 April 2001); the single binding of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s period is still retained in the Golestān Palace Library, but the leaves are no longer kept in that binding (Beach, personal communication, 26 March 2001). The only reliable evidence, other than the stylistic features, to distinguish the two albums might be their original size (in general Golestān leaves appear to be slightly larger than the Golšan leaves, 42 x 26 vs. 40 x 25), but some of the leaves have been trimmed over the years.

The folios of the two albums were arranged in such a way that two facing pages of illustrations were followed by two facing pages of calligraphy, giving each leaf an illustration (or combination of illustrations) on one side and a piece (or pieces) of calligraphy on the other. Each set had elaborate margin decorations. Those for calligraphy specimens contain colorful assortments of figural drawings (some of which are clearly portraits), while those for illustrations contain mostly floral, faunal, and abstract motifs. Symmetry of size (e.g., attempts to make each main illustration on each leaf be as large as its counterpart on the facing leaf) seems to have been a deciding factor in modifying the size of some of the illustrations within border decorations. This was done either through addition of engravings, paintings, or illuminated margins at the top and bottom of the centerpieces, or by cutting down the oversize.

Many folios have been taken away from both the Golšan and Golestān albums, most probably including a group of twenty-five which the German Egyptologist Karl Heinrich Brugsch had purchased during his stay in Persia in 1860-61 (Brugsch, I, pp. 92-93; Kühnel and Goetz, 1926, pp. 8-9; Beach, p. 303). This set, commonly known as the “Berlin Album,” is now in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (Libr. Pict. A117; Kühnel and Goetz, 1924 and 1926; news about splitting the recto and verso of the Berlin leaves was reported in 2001; personal communication with Beach). The Golestān Palace Library purchased some of the dispersed leaves, including six containing the first and the last leaves of the Golestān Album (Hájek, p. 73; Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, p. 16; Semsār, pp. 256-57).

It is difficult to determine exactly how many folios were in each album at the time when the initial compilation was made. A document in Moḥammad Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi’s possession mentions a certain Moraqqaʿ-e pādšāhi as an album comprised of 134 folios, which the owner suggests may be identical with the Golšan Album (Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi, 1967, p. 45). Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi himself counts 112 leaves (88 in a bound volume and 24 in a portfolio), whereas Badri Ātābāy gives 90 leaves for Golšan and 43 for Golestān (Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi, 1967, pp. 40-41; Ātābāy, 1974, p. 11). When some of the leaves from the album were exhibited at Burlington House in 1931, the number of folios was said to have been 92 (Binyon, Wilkinson, and Gray, p. 192). Mention of an Indian album (Moraqqaʿ-e hendi) in the Qajar Royal Library is made in a 6 Jomādā II 1306/7 February 1889 entry in the diary of Mirzā Ṭāher Baṣir-al-Molk, Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s superintendent of royal workshops (boyutāt; Baṣir-al-Molk, pp. 476-77). The references to this moraqqaʿ that both Nāṣer-al-Din Shah and Mirzā Ṭāher made in the diary are indicative of a very special album, possibly the Golšan Album. The fact that the shah and Mirzā Ṭāher could describe it in detail to each other (the album was apparently missing at the time) may support the same identification. The only physical description that Mirzā Ṭāher mentions is the album’s number of folios. Nāṣer-al-Din Shah remembers that the album had 120 folios, while Mirzā Ṭāher insists that it contained 101 folios, “202 pages,” probably after checking his logs. This also serves to exclude another important Mughal album in Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s possession, which had far more leaves—a total of 166 (Karimi, p. 278). All these number variations confirm the fact that leaves from both albums have turned up in the market as early as Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s reign and as late as the year 2000. There are in fact indications that many more are still in private collections (Beach, 1981, p. 156; Ettinghausen, figs. 4-6). Other institutions and collections that hold specimens from this album are the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum (Kansas City), the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection (San Diego Museum of Art), the Fogg Art Museum (Harvard University), the St. Louis Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Freer Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Musée Guimet (Paris), the Otto Sohn-Rethel Collection (Düsseldorf), the Náprstek Museum (Prague), and the Art and History Trust (Houston, Texas; see Beach, 1978, 1981, 1992; Hájek).

According to a chronogram (moraqqaʿ-e bi meṯl o bi badal) used in a poem by the 17th-century poet Kalim Kāšāni, the Golšan Album was compiled in India in the year 1046/1636, that is, in the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (1037-68/1627-57; the inclusion of a portrait of the young Shah Jahān at page 2 tends to corroborate this). The preface presented by Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi states that it took nine years at the cost of 120,000 rupees to complete the Golšan Album; thus it can be assumed that the Golšan project began simultaneously with Shah Jahān’s ascendance to the throne in 1037/1627. According to another chronogram (rašk-e golzār-e eram) included in the epilogue of the Moraqqaʿ-e golestān, this moraqqaʿ was compiled in the year 1019/1610-11 for the library of Shah Jahān’s father, Nur-al-Din Moḥammad Jahāngir (1014-37 /1605-27; Ātābāy, 1974, pp. 12-16; Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, pp. 17-18). The resemblance of the Golšan Album to the Golestān leaves is evident, and Kalim does say that it was Jahāngir who initially planned its creation and its format. A possible explanation may be that a stash of paintings and calligraphy specimens (probably with unfinished or no marginal decorations) that were never incorporated into the Golestān project became available to Shah Jahān’s court artists. Other pages, reflecting Shah Jahān’s own interests, were commissioned and made specifically for him. The leaves were trimmed to be just slightly smaller than Jahāngir’s Golestān leaves, a subtle sign of distinction in a remarkable continuity that celebrated memories and precious works of art.

The main sources of the album’s paintings were either individual leaves brought to the Mughal court by Persian artists who migrated there during the second half of the 16th century (e.g., Mirzā ʿAli, Āqā Reżā, ʿAbd-al-Ṣamad Širāzi, Mir Sayyed ʿAli, Farroḵ Beyg), or illustrations from important unfinished manuscripts (e.g., the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi, Ḵamsa of Neẓāmi Ganjavi, and Ẓafar-nāma of Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi), or reproductions as well as original works by Mughal court painters (e.g., Manhur, Nanha, Dawlat, Manohar Das, Basawan, Chiknar-e Moṣawwer, Gisvadas, Manṣur). Sample works of masters like Āqā Mirak, Kamāl-al-Din Behzād (q.v.), and Ṣādeqi Ketābdār were also included. Most of the calligraphy specimens are by the prolific qeṭʿa calligrapher of the period, Mir ʿAli Heravi (q.v.), although other master calligraphers such as Solṭān-ʿAli Mašhadi, Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Zarrin-qalam, and Aẓhar Tabrizi are represented as well. But by far the most identifiable attribute of the album is the marginal figures around the calligraphy pieces. Nearly all court painters of Jahāngir and Shah Jahān seem to have participated in the production of these figures (see Godard, 1936 and 1988 for a detailed analysis of some of the Golšan Album’s figural drawings). Another distinctive feature of the album is the inclusion of scenes depicting Christian subjects, such as Jesus, the Virgin Mary, saints, and apostles. Recent studies have identified the original sources of most of these reproductions (Beach, 1965 and 1976; Ettinghausen, pp. 391-96), and have documented the important roles played in this by the Portuguese Jesuits who traveled to the courts of Akbar and Jahāngir (Bailey, 1998).

A major international project to publish the Golšan Album in its entirety began in 2000. The project is sponsored jointly by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in cooperation with the Golestān Palace in Tehran.

Plate I. Two camels fighting. By Kamāl-al-Din Behzād. Golšan Album. MS Tehran, Golestān Palace Library, no. 1663, fol. 6 verso. Page size 40.6 x 25.1 cm.; painting size 26 x 16.5 cm. After M.H. Semsār, p. 260.

Plate II. Calligraphy and marginal figures, including a self-portrait of Āqā Reżā (upper left ), dated Ramażān 1008/March-April 1600. MS Tehran, Golestān Palace Library 1663, fol. 105 recto. After Y.A. Godard, 1936, p. 14.



Nazir Ahmad, “Jahangir’s Album of Art: Muraqqa-i-Gulshan and Its Two Adilshahi Paintings,” Indo-Iranica 30/1-2, 1977, pp. 25-43.

Badri Ātābāy, Fehrest-e moraqqaʿāt-e ketāb-ḵāna-ye salṭanati, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 339-68 (includes reproductions of 26 pages of the album with brief biographical notices of the artists).

Idem, Sargoẕašthā: maqālāt-e montašar šoda dar našriyāt-e fārsi zabān-e borun-marzi, ed. Maḥmud Gudarzi, Bethesda, Md., 1996, pp. 178-83.

Esin Atil, The Brush of the Masters: Drawings from Iran and India, Washington, D.C., 1978, pp. 104-10.

Gauvin Alexander Bailey, The Jesuits and the Grand Mogul: Renaissance Art at the Imperial Court of India, 1580-1630. Washington, D.C., 1998.

Mirzā Ṭāher Baṣir-al-Molk, Ruz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, Tehran, 1374 Š./1995.

Milo Cleveland Beach, “The Gulshan Album and Its European Sources,” Bulletin, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 43, no. 332, 1965, pp. 63-91.

Idem, “A European Source for Early Mughal Painting,” Oriental Art 22/1, 1976, pp. 180-88.

Idem, The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600-1660, Washington, D.C., 1978, pp. 43-59.

Idem, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court, Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 156-67.

Idem, “Persian Culture and Mughal India,” in Abolala Soudavar and Milo Beach, eds., Art of the Persian Courts, New York, 1992, pp. 303-63.

Laurence Binyon, James V. Stewart Wilkinson, and Basil Gray, Persian Miniature Painting, Including a Critical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Miniatures Exhibited at Burlington House, January-March, 1931, London, 1933.

Sir Harford Jones Brydges, The Dynasty of the Kajars, London, 1833, repr., London, 1973.

Heinrich Karl Brugsch, Reise der K. preussischen Gesandtschaft nach Persien, 1860 und 1861, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1862-63.

Richard Ettinghausen, “New Pictorial Evidence of Catholic Missionary Activity in Mughal India (Early XVIIth Century),” in Hugo Rahner and Emmanuel von Severus, eds., Perennitas: Beiträge zur christlichen Archäologie und Kunst, zur Geschichte der Literatur, der Litergie und des Mönchtums.., Münster, 1963, pp. 386-96.

Yedda A. Godard, “Les marges du Murakkaʿ Gulshan,” Athār-é Irān 1, 1936, pp. 11-33; tr. Abu’l-Ḥasan Sarvqad Moqaddam as “Ḥāšiahā-ye Moraqqaʿ-e golšan,” Āṯār-e Irān 3, Mašhad, 1367 Š./1988, pp. 185-207.

Lubor Hájek, Indian Miniatures of the Moghul School, London, 1960, pp. 70-75, pls. 8-20. Iran: Persian Miniatures-Imperial Library, New York, 1957, pp. 18-20, pl. xvi-xxiv.

Abu Ṭāleb Kalim Kāšāni, Divān, ed. M. Qahramān, Mašhad, 1369 Š./1990, pp. 28, 109.

Bahman Karimi, “Note sur les pages de calligraphie de l’album,” Athār-e Irān 2, 1937, pp. 278-80.

Ernst Kühnel, and Hermann Goetz, Indische Buchmalereien aus dem Jahangir-Album der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin, 1924; tr. into Eng. as Indian Book Painting from Jahangir’s Album in the State Library in Berlin, London, 1926.

Moḥammad Moḥiṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾi, “Taḥlil-i az yak sanad-e tāriḵi rājeʿ ba Moraqqaʿ-e pādšāhi (Golšan o čaman),” Honar o mardom, nos. 61-62, 1346 Š./1967, pp. 44-47.

Idem, “Dar pirāmun-e Moraqqaʿ-e golšan wa moraqqaʿ-e digar,” Honar o mardom, nos. 77-78, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 75-76.

Baquir Muhammad, “Muraqqa-i-Gulshen,” Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society 5/3, 1957, pp. 158-61.

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Semsār, ed., Kāḵ-e Golestān: ganjina-ye kotob wa nafāʾes-e ḵaṭṭi, Tehran, 2000.

Aḥmad Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, “Moraqqaʿ-e golšan: taḥlil-i az yak sanad-e tāriḵi,” Honar o mardom, no. 73, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 16-18.

Abolala Soudavar, “Between the Safavids and the Mughals: Art and Artists in Transition,” Iran 37, 1999, pp. 49-66.

James V. Stewart Wilkinson and Basil Gray, “Indian Paintings in a Persian Museum,” The Burlington Magazine, April 1935, pp. 168-77.

(Kambiz Eslami)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 14, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 104-108