"The Shah's Wise Men Approve of Zal's Marriage", Folio 86v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp, Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020), Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper

"The Shah's Wise Men Approve of Zal's Marriage", Folio 86v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp

Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Painting attributed to 'Abd al-'Aziz (active first half 16th century)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
ca. 1525–30
Made in Iran, Tabriz
Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)
W 7 3/16 in. (18.3 cm)
Page: H. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm)
W. 12 9/16 in. (31.9 cm)
Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm)
W. 16 in. (40.6 cm)

Credit Line:
Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970
Accession Number:
Not on view
Zal was the son of Sam of the house of Nariman, the ruling family of Sistan who had been vassals and faithful supporters of the Iranian crown for a long time. During his travels to the east, Zal fell in love with the beautiful Rudaba, daughter of the ruler of the rival kingdom of Kabul. But when he expressed his desire to marry her, Shah Manuchihr became very concerned about the future of the Iranian kingdom and reacted negatively to his plans. Upon Sam's insistence, however, the shah asked the advice of his sages and astrologers. Luckily the stars and the wise men gave a positive verdict: not only would the marriage be a felicitous event, but the union of the Iranian prince and the Indian princess would bear the most important Iranian hero, Rustam.
This is a lavish enthronement scene, a rather common iconographic subject in the Persian tradition. The artists used this occasion to construct an elaborate interior space, whose tiled surfaces and painted walls probably closely resemble contemporary royal interiors. They also included references to two other important elements of Iranian royal architecture: fountains and gardens.
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)
Musée du Louvre. "La Dynastie Safavide," October 1, 2007–January 7, 2008, no. 24.

Martin, F. R. Miniature Paintings of Persia, India and Turkey from the 8th century II (1913). ill. pl. 124.

Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. p. 191.

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. 72 (b/w).

Melikian-Chirvani, Assadullah. "L'Art de l'Iran Safavide 1501–1736." In Le Chant du Monde. Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2007. no. 24, pp. 192-193, ill. p. 193 (color).

Canby, Sheila R. "The Persian Book of Kings." In The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. Madrid, 2011. p. 92, ill. (color), folio 86v.

Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp: The Persian Book of Kings. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p. 134, ill. fol. 86v (color).

Lutz, Albert, ed. "Orte der Sehnsucht und Inspiration." In Gärten der Welt. Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 2016. no. 32, pp. 72-73, 301, ill. p. 72 (color).