Cenotaph of Taj al-Mulk wal-Din Abul-Qasim
Unknown artist, Iranian, Mazandaran province
Cenotaph of Taj al-Mulk wal-Din Abul-Qasim, dated February 1473
112.7 x 187.3 x 117.5 cm (44 3/8 x 73 3/4 x 46 1/4 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 18.728
This cenotaph memorializes Taj al-Mulk wal-Din Abul-Qasim, the son of Musa al-Kazim, who was the eighth of the twelve imams (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) honored in the Shi’ite Twelver lineage. Made for the shrine of Abul Qasim in Mazandaran (in northern Iran near the Caspian Sea), the cenotaph bears a carved inscription naming two craftsmen, Ustad Ahmad and Ustad Hasan bin Husayn, and stating that the Baduspanid ruler Gustaham commissioned it. The calligraphy and geometric designs merge visually, dematerializing the marker’s surface. Perhaps this treatment implies the ephemeral nature of life. The cenotaph’s vertical inscription panels reading ‘life is an hour’ enjoin Muslims to look to the next world.