Attributed to Sultan Muhammad (Iranian, active first half of 16th century)
Colors, ink, silver, and gold on paper
18 1/2 x 12 5/8 in. (47 x 32.1 cm)
Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.2)
The first kings of Iran contributed to civilize humanity by introducing a variety of activities and crafts. Fire, however, was an accidental discovery. According to legend, one day King Hushang saw a hideous monster hiding behind a rock and tried to scare him by throwing a stone at him. Hitting a boulder, the rock produced sparks, and fire was discovered. The shah interpreted this as a divine gift and decided to celebrate the event on that same night with a great gathering. Hence, the feast of Sada, commemorating the discovery of fire, was established.
The exuberant quality of this composition has long been associated with the style of Sultan Muhammad, a major artist of the early Safavid period and the director of the manuscript project for several years. The scene develops around its main protagonist—fire, surrounded by a lively and colorful crowd of humans and animals. The gathering is framed by iridescent rock formations hiding monstrous shapes, which could be interpreted as entrapped spirits, perhaps a visual pun by the artist meant as a reminder of the unwitting cause of Hushang's discovery.