The Jack Daulton Collection
Antique & Ethnographic Art
Antique Persian Ashura Banner

ashura banner depicting Al-Mukhtar’s revenge for the killing of Imam Hussein

pigment on homespun cotton, consisting of a block-printed (qalamkar) border framing a hand-painted subject

length 11 ft. 3 in., height 10 ft. 6 in.

Isfahan, Iran

late 19th – early 20th century

provenance: collected in Isfahan, Iran, by Jack Daulton

Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was murdered on the plain of Karbala, Iraq, by his religious and political opponents (troops of the Umayyad Caliph of Damascus) in the 61st year of the Muslim era (680 A.D.).  Thereafter, Al-Mukhtar, the son of one of Muhammad’s associates and early followers, avenged the death of Imam Hussein by tracking down and killing the culprits.

The day on which Imam Hussein’s martyrdom occurred is called Ashura.  Hussein’s martyrdom is commemorated throughout the Shiite Islam world by a communal mourning ritual known as Ta’ziyeh.  See generally Peter J. Chelkowski, ed., Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran (New York: New York Univ. Pr., 1979).  Paintings, known as Karbala paintings, are part of the pageantry associated with the mourning ritual, sometimes taking the form of large banners, as in this rare example. 

This example is said to have been hung from the wall of a khanqah, a Sufi hall, on Ashura.

The Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, the French national museum of ethnographic art, has several of these large pictorial qalamkari (kalamkari) textiles in its collection and on display.  (See, e.g., Accession No. 70.2019.5.2, depicting the Last Judgment and alluding also to the battle of Karbala.)

"De telles tentures, appelees pardeh, etaient utilisees par les conteurs pour narrer, le soir d"Achoura ou pendant les nuits du Ramadan, l'histoire du martyr de Hussein."  ["Such hangings, called pardeh, were used by storytellers to tell, on Ashura night or on Ramadan nights, the story of Hussein's martyrdom."]  Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, exhibition label text, 2021.

photograph of this ashura banner spread out on the Maidan (Naqsh-e Jahan Square), Isfahan, Iran, circa 2006 (photographer Jack Daulton):
detail 1:
detail 2:
detail 3:
detail 4: