"Buzurgmihr Masters the Game of Chess", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: ca. 1300–30

Geography: Made in Iran or Iraq

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 1 15/16 in. (4.9 cm)
W. 4 13/16 in. (12.2 cm)
Page: H. 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm)
W. 5 1/4 in. (13.3 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1934

Accession Number: 34.24.1


The text of the Shahnama has its own version of how the game of chess was introduced into Iran from India. In order to avoid paying tribute to the Sasanians, the rajah of Hind (India) sent an envoy challenging the Iranian ruler to figure out how this game was played. The clever vizier Buzurjmihr secured the tribute for his king by solving the problem. The Iranians are dressed in Mongol costume, whereas the erudite vizier wears Arab-style tunic and turban. The Indian envoy, all alone among the Iranians as if underscoring his defeat at the game, is typically represented as a dark-skinned man wearing baggy clothes and a loose turban.