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Bowl with Bahram Gur and Azada

Object Name:
Bowl
Date:
late 12th–early 13th century
Geography:
Iran, probably Kashan
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Stonepaste; glazed (opaque monochrome), in-glaze- and overglaze-painted, gilded
Dimensions:
H. 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm) Diam. 8 11/16 in. (22.1 cm) Wt. 15.3 oz. (433.8 g)
Classification:
Ceramics
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Gift of The Schiff Foundation, 1957
Accession Number:
57.36.2
Not on view
Bahram Gur, challenged by his concubine Azada in a series of dares to show his mastery in archery, here pins together with a single arrow the ear and hoof of a gazelle, while Azada plays the harp. The tragic epilogue of this story from the Persian epic Shahnama, in which a camel tramples Azada after she disparages the prince for his cruel feats, is portrayed at the bottom of the bowl. This popular episode was depicted on ceramics and metalware.
The scene on this bowl represents a famous episode from the Shahnama, the Persian epic passed down orally for centuries until preserved in writing by the poet Firdawsi (d. 1020). The story tells of a hunting expedition of Bahram Gur and his concubine Azada, depicted here on the back of his camel. While the prince shows his mastery in archery, Azada plays the harp—an evocation of the paired royal pursuits of bazm and razm, or feasting and fighting. Bahram Gur, challenged by Azada to transform a male gazelle into a female, a female into a male, and to pin together with a single arrow the ear and hoof of another gazelle, is shown succeeding in the third dare, which he accomplishes after throwing a stone onto the ear of the animal, causing it to lift its hoof. The epilogue of the story, in which the camel tramples Azada on Bahram Gur’s order after she disparages the prince for his cruel feats, is portrayed at the bottom of the dish.

This episode occurs on several mina’i bowls and less frequently in metalwork. The general scheme—Bahram Gur and Azada on camelback—is maintained, while the narrative is depicted with variations. These range from simpler representations of the two lovers before the dare takes place to more complex arrangements such as the one shown here, in which Bahram Gur’s feats and Azada’s tragic demise are both included. Such variations attest to the popularity of the story, intelligible to the viewer with even the sparest of iconographic clues, as well as to the creativity of the craftsman. A demand for personalization has also been suggested. In any case, mina’i bowls with narrative and literary scenes tend to be of higher quality than those bearing paintings of other subjects, a difference that speaks to a differentiated market. The presence of scenes from the Shahnama in both royal and non-elite contexts reveals the popularity and diffusion of these epic tales, in both their written and oral tellings, and suggests the adaptability of ubiquitous royal iconography.

Martina Rugiadi (author) in [Canby et al. 2016]
Inscription: In Persian; on exterior, below rim. "Good wishes to the owner".

Outside in Arabic language and Kufic scrip:
العز و الاقبال و الدولة ... و الدولة و السلامة و السعادة و السلامة ... و البقاء لصاحبه العز ...
Inside in Kufic script the word الدو repeated many times.

A.Ghouchani
Mortimer L. Schiff, New York (until d. 1931); his son, John M. Schiff(1931–57; sold and gifted to MMA)
Dimand, Maurice S. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 12 to June 28, 1931." In Loan Exhibition of Ceramic Art of the Near East. New York, 1931. no. 59, p. 15.

Wilson, Arnold T. "7th January to 28th February, 1931." In Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Persian Art. 3rd. ed. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1931. no. 104C, p. 66.

"7th January to 28th February, 1931, Royal Academy of Arts, London." In Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Persian Art. 3rd edition ed. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1931. no. case 104 C.

"Mémoires." In IIIe Congrès International d'Art et d'Archéologie Iraniens. Moscow and Leningrad: Academie des Sciences de l'URSS, 1935. ill. pl. LXXXI.

Harari, Ralph, and Richard Ettinghausen. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, edited by Arthur Upham Pope. Vol. I-VI. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1938. vol. II, p. 1602, ill. vol. V, pl. 672, (color).

Ackerman, Phyllis. "The Iranian Institute, New York." In Guide to the Exhibition of Persian Art. 2nd. ed. New York: The Iranian Institute, 1940. no. Gallery I, case 24E, p. 22.

Dimand, Maurice S. "New Accessions of Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 16 (April 1958). pp. 228, 234, ill. p. 234 (b/w).

Hillenbrand, Robert, ed. "The Visual Language of the Persian Book of Kings." In Shahnama. VARIE occasonal papers; 2. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004. p. 124, Related reference.

Roxburgh, David J. "From Dispersal to Collection." In The Persian Album, 1400-1600. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. p. 5, ill. fig. 4 (b/w).

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. 72, pp. 114-115, ill. p. 114 (color).

Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, Martina Rugiadi, and A. C. S. Peacock. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 83, p. 153, ill. (color).



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