"Buzurjmihr Masters the Hindu Game of Chess", Folio 639v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp
Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Painting attributed to 'Abd al-Vahhab
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Made in Iran, Tabriz
Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
Painting: 9 5/8 x 6 7/8 in. (24.4 x 17.5 cm)
Entire Page: 18 5/8 x 12 1/2 in. (47.3 x 31.8 cm)
Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970
Not on view
In negotiations between Iran and India concerning the payment of tribute to Iran, the king of India sent a challenge to the shah. If the shah could figure out the rules of the game that we know as chess from the board and pieces that he sent with his envoy, India would pay the tribute. If the shah failed, Iran would have to pay tribute to India. The wise Buzurjmihr was summoned and, after a day and night, announced that he had mastered the game; he then proceeded to show his skill against the Indian envoy. The light palette and arabesque and cloud-band patterns on the carpets suggest the influence of Shiraz-school painting.
Shah Tahmasp, Iran (until 1568; gifted to Selim II); Sultan Selim II, Istanbul (from 1568); Sultan Selim III, Istanbul (by 1800); Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Paris (by 1903–d. 1934); his son, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris and Pregny, near Geneva (by 1955–d. 1957); [ Stiebel Ltd., New York, until 1959; sold to Houghton]; Arthur A. Houghton Jr., New York (1959–70; gifted to MMA)
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Baltimore. Baltimore Museum of Art. "Tales from a King's Book of Kings," February 12, 1974–March 31, 1974, no. 51.
New York. Asia Society. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," October 14, 2004–January 18, 2005, no. 12:8.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," February 26, 2005–May 15, 2005, no. 12:8.
Middlebury College Museum of Art. "Asian Games: The Art of Contest," September 8, 2005–December 11, 2005, no. 12:8.
Levy, Ruben, ed. The Epic of the Kings : Shah-nama, the National Epic of Persia, by Ferdowski. UNESCO collection of representative works: Persian heritage series; [no. 3]. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1967. pp. 327-329.
Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. p. 196.
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Dickson, Martin, and Stuart Cary Welch. The Houghton Shahnameh. Vol. vols. I & II. Cambridge, Mass. and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1981. vol. II, ill. pl. 244 (b/w).
Mackenzie, Colin, and Irving Finkel, ed. Asian Games The Art of Contest. New York: Asia Society, 2004. no. 12:8, p. 143, ill. (color).
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Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp: The Persian Book of Kings. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p. 306, ill. fol. 639v.