Bahram Gur Pins the Coupling Onagers: From the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp, ca. 1525–30
Attributed to Mir Sayyid cAli
Colors, ink, silver, and gold on paper; 18 59/16 x 12 1/2 in. (47.1 x 31.8 cm)
Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.62)
Bahram Gur, whose nickname derives from his favorite activity—hunting onagers (gur)—is depicted here in an elegant display of skill. The handsome galloping knight at the center of the scene has just shot his arrow, pinning two onagers in the act of mating. Apart from the provocative detail, the painter of this page can be singled out for his excellent draftsmanship; the sobriety of line displayed here anticipates major developments in drawing that characterize Safavid production during the second half of the sixteenth and the seventeenth century. According to some scholars, the artist in question is Mir Sayyid 'Ali, the son of Mir Musavvir, who had succeeded Sultan Muhammad as head of the royal Shahnama project. Painting—like calligraphy and other arts—was generally transmitted from father to son, and some families kept the tradition for many generations. The case of Mir Sayyid 'Ali confirms this tradition. He is also considered one of the Iranian artists who contributed to the development of the Mughal school of painting in India, where several artists traveled in search of support during the second half of the sixteenth century.