"Nushirvan Receives Mihras, Envoy of Caesar", Folio from the First Small Shahnama (Book of Kings)
Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Made in Iran or Iraq
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Painting with Textblock: H. 6 9/16 in. (16.7 cm) W. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm) Page: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm) W. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1934
Not on view
The Byzantine emperor, concerned about the possibility of an invasion by the mighty Iranian forces, sent an embassy under his general Mihras carrying a letter of conciliation and lavish gifts, and a peaceful agreement was eventually concluded. In the miniature, the letter–which assumes a special significance in this context, since the Ilkhanid rulers and the Catholic pope exchanged similar missives–and the gifts in the form of gold cups are shown at the foot of the shah's throne. Mihras is represented as a type of Crusader, something between a warrior and a priest, wearing a helmet and holding a cross.
According to the Shahnama, the Byzantine emperor, generically called "Caesar," was concerned about the possibility of an invasion by the mighty Iranian forces of Nushirvan and sent an embassy under his general Mihras. Mihras brought with him a letter of conciliation and lavish gifts, and a peaceful agreement was eventually concluded.
In the miniature, the letter—which assumes a special significance in this context since the Ilkhanid rulers and the pope exchanges similar missives—and the gifts on the form of gold cups are clearly visible at the foot of Nusharvan's throne. Mihras is shown as a kind of a Crusader, something between a warrior and a priest, wearing a helmet and holding a cross; he is followed by two other envoys. The vizier, Buzurjmihr, and Nushirvan's attendants are shown costumed as they are in folio 34.24.1. Here too there is a plain gold background.
Komaroff and Carboni 2002.
1. Simpson, Marianna Shreve. The Illustrations of an Epic: The Earliest "Shahnama" Manuscripts. Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1979, fig. 93.
2. See, e.g., Spuler, Bertold. History of the Mongols, Based on Eastern and Western Acccounts of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. Translated by Helga Drummond and Stuart Drummond. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972, pp. 68–70.
[ Heeramaneck Galleries, New York, until 1934; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," October 28, 2002–February 16, 2003, no. 35.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," April 13, 2003–July 27, 2003, no. 35.
Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts," June 5, 2011–September 5, 2011, no. 237.
Houston. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts," October 23, 2011–January 15, 2012, no. 237.
Dimand, Maurice S. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 29 (1934). pp. 58-60.
Simpson, Marianna. "The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts." PhD diss., Garland Publishing, Inc., 1979.
Rossabi, Morris, Charles Melville, James C.Y. Watt, Tomoko Masuya, Sheila Blair, Robert Hillenbrand, Linda Komaroff, Stefano Carboni, Sarah Bertelan, and John Hirx. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, edited by Stefano Carboni, and Linda Komaroff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 35, pp. 203, 253, ill. fig. 244 (color).
Komaroff Linda, ed. "The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts." In Gifts of the Sultan. Los Angeles; New Haven and London: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011. no. 237, pp. 79, 295, ill. fig. 71 (color).