Five Leaves from the Shahnameh

Iran (Shiraz), circa 1570
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
44 x 29 cm each leaf

The Shahnameh is an epic poem of over 50,000 couplets written in Early New Persian. It is based mainly on a prose work of the same name compiled in Ferdowsi’s earlier life in his native Tus. The Shahnameh was in turn and for the most part the translation of a Pahlavi (Middle Persian) work, known as the Xwadāynāmag “Book of Kings”, a late Sasanian compilation of the history of the kings and heroes of Persia from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrau II (590–628). Ferdowsi added material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sasanians by the Muslim armies in the middle of the seventh century.

As we now better understand, Shiraz artists were working in Northern India and in the Deccan in the mid – late 16th century. It is possible that some of the faces may have later repainting.


Private collection UK 1960s.

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