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A Century of Giving

Jila Peacock

10 Poems from Hafez


Screenprinted on Somerset Soft White and Tenjin mould,
Bound at Wyvern Bindery

The Fitzwilliam Museum: PB 65-2005

This sumptuous handmade book was made in 2004 by Jila Peacock, an Iranian-born painter and printmaker working in Glasgow.

It contains ten poems by Hafez, the great 14th century Iranian poet and Sufi mystic. Hafez's passionate and sensual lyrics, rich in wordplay and symbolism, were much admired by poets such as Byron and Tennyson.

Jila Peacock's own English translations are accompanied by calligraphic 'shape poems'. She exploits the elegant, dynamic nature of Persian calligraphy to create subtle and delicate images of animals - like this graceful deer - which combine the principles of Sufi philosophy with the essence of Hafez's poetry.

Underlying Peacock's work is her close study of Arabic calligraphy (meaning literally 'the art of beautiful writing') which continues to evoke the essence of the Islamic world and its enduring cultural traditions.

"Most Arabic shape poems are almost indecipherable and I was very keen for these poems to be more or less legible ... I started each poem from the creature's mouth and worked through to the back legs. In the Deer, the first two lines start from the face and working to the left, form the two antlers. The running deer design is very Persianate and is found in many paintings, although I took this from a ceramic plate I bought in Isphahan nearly forty years ago."

This book, one of fifty copies bound at the Wyvern Bindery, is a significant addition to the collection of Private Press editions initiated by Sydney Cockerell in the early 20th century - as well as to the Museum's own collection of Persian calligraphy and painting. Drawing on ancient Islamic artistic and literary traditions, it also provides an appropriate link with the very first Friends' purchase in 1909: a panel of painted tiles from Damascus.

Link to artist's website

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