The colophon folio, now in the Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. informs us that the manuscript from which this page comes, was produced in the city of Shiraz, ordered by the Injuid dynasty vizier Hasan Qavam al-Daula va al-Din in 741/1341. This early painting depicts the hero Bizhan ridding the Armenian territories of a terrorizing band of wild boar.
This folio illustrates the culminating moment in the tale of Bizhan and the boars of Irman, one of the many stories of heroic exploits contained in the Shahnama (Book of Kings). In this tale, Bizhan offers his help to the tribe of Irman—a region lying on the border between Iran and Turan—when a delegation from that land asks for Kai Khusrau’s assistance against the hordes of ferocious boars plaguing their forests. The illustration is a faithful rendition of the verses preceding it, which describe how an armor-clad and mounted Bizhan pursues and slays the wild boars. In spite of the illustration’s loose style and simple layout, the painting eloquently conveys the magnitude of Bizhan’s task by minimizing the landscape and multiplying the number and size of the boars that the hero must slaughter.
This succinct, incisive pictorial style distinguishes the earliest surviving illustrated versions of the Shahnama, which date from the beginning of the fourteenth century. The manuscript from which this page derives is now dispersed, but its colophon bears the date A.H. 741/1341 A.D., with a dedication to Qiwam al-Daula wa’l- Din Hasan. Qiwam al-Daula (ca. 1303–1357) was the vizier of the Injuids, who emerged as more or less independent rulers of the Iranian province of Fars in the decades preceding and immediately following the fall of the Ilkhanid dynasty. The surviving folios from this codex shed light on the sophisticated nature of the original manuscript, which is, however, not comparable in quality or complexity to the almost contemporary illustrated version of the same text commissioned by the Ilkhanid Abu Sa‘id (r. 1317–35), known as the Great Mongol Shahnama. At the same time, the fact that an increasing number of officials decided to commission illustrated copies of the Persian epic testifies to the growing interest in the ancient royal traditions of Iran.
Francesca Leoni in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Lowry, Glenn D., et al. An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection. Washington, D.C., 1988, pp. 69–70.
2. Eighty illustrated pages are currently scattered among private and public collections. Seven are in the Metropolitan Museum (in addition to this folio, acc. nos. 29.160.21, 36.113.1–3, 57.51.35, and 57.51.36), while the dedication page is in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (no. S86.0110).
3. See cat. 57, (no 33.70).
4. At least seven manuscripts can be attributed to the Injuids, and four of them are copies of the Shahnama (Carboni and Komaroff 2002p. 217). A list of these manuscripts is provided in Grube, Ernst J. Persian Painting in the Fourteenth Century: A Research Report. Istituto Universitario Orientale, Supplemento, no. 17, agli Annali, 38, no. 4. Naples,1978, pp. 15–16 and n. 43.
Inscription: In Persian in nasta’liq script part of a poem from the Shāhnama of Ferdowsī , story بیژن و منیژه (Bīzhan va Manīzha).
There is a title on this page, but in the published edition of the Shāhnama the story appears under the title, فریفتن گرگین میلاذ بیژن را (Gurgin cheating … of Bīzhan).
(Abu’l-Qasim Feardowsi,The Shāhnāmeh (The book of kings), ed, Djalal Khalqi- Muṭlagh, Mazda publishers in association with Bibliotheca Persica, Costa Mesa, California and New York, 1997, vol.3, p.312-15. )
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, New York (until 1929; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," October 28, 2002–February 16, 2003, no. 11.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," April 13, 2003–July 27, 2003, no. 11.
Swietochowski, Marie, Stefano Carboni, Tomoko Masuya, and Alexander H. Morton. Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images:Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. p. 76, ill. fig. 22 (color).
Rossabi, Morris, Charles Melville, James C.Y. Watt, Tomoko Masuya, Sheila S. Blair, Robert Hillenbrand, Linda Komaroff, Stefano Carboni, Sarah Bertelan, and John Hirx. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, edited by Stefano Carboni, and Linda Komaroff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 11, pp. 217, 247, ill. fig. 265 (color).
Sims, Eleanor, B. Marshak, and Ernst J. Grube. "Persian Painting and its Sources." In Peerless Images. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 138, pp. 224-225, ill. p. 224 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 58, pp. 89, 97-98, ill. p. 98 (color).