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"Luhrasp Hears from the Returning Paladins of the Vanishing Kai Khusrau", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi

Author:
Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Artist:
Painting attributed to Siyavush (ca. 1536–1610)
Dedicatee:
Shah Isma'il (r. 1576–77)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Date:
1576–77
Geography:
Made in Iran, Qazvin
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
H. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm) W. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1935
Accession Number:
35.48
Not on view
The illustration is one of fifty-five dispersed folios from a Shahnama thought to have been commissioned by the Safavid ruler Shah Isma'il II (r. 1576–77). Siyavush, the painter of this work, worked in the royal atelier of Shah Isma'il’s father Shah Tahmasp and continued to work at the Safavid court after Shah Tahmasp’s death. The paintings from this Shahnama are simpler than previous examples and are larger in scale. Details such as the rocks are thinly painted with little attention to detail, suggesting that the painting was never finished.
In a rocky landscape Shah Luhrasp gesticulates toward the aging Zal and his son Rustam, who have come to brief him upon the disappearance of Kai Khusrau, his predecessor on the Iranian throne. Seated on a low-sided polygonal throne, Luhrasp sports a short beard and helmet-shaped crown decorated with feathers. Although the painting does not follow the text in matters of detail, the figures at the right do represent the few assembled soldiers who escaped death in a snowstorm as they were searching for the king. The young crowned figure at the lower right may be Gushtasp, son of Luhrasp.[1]
The illustration is one of fifty-five dispersed pages from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) thought to have been commissioned by Shah Isma‘il II, the son and successor of Shah Tahmasp who ruled for eighteen months in 1576–77. B. W. Robinson proposed that the manuscript was left unfinished at the time of the shah’s death because none of the extant illustrations come from the later sections of the manuscript.[2] Nine artists contributed paintings to this Shahnama. Some, like Siyavush, had been attached to the royal library late in the life of Shah Tahmasp (d. 1576) and continued to work at the Safavid court after his death. As a child, Siyavush was brought as a slave from Georgia to the Safavid court, where Shah Tahmasp recognized his talent and assigned him to the naqqashkhana (royal atelier).[3]
By comparison to the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp ( produced in the 1520s and 30s), the paintings from the 1576–77 manuscript contain simpler and far less original compositions. The scale of figures is generally larger in the later Shahnama, and they do not conform consistently to the long-necked, round-cheeked, slender silhouette that characterized the Qazvin style in this period. Details such as the rocks, which would have been lovingly depicted with subtly modulated colors and irregular shapes in the Tahmasp Shahnama, are thinly painted, with little attention to eyecatching features. This blandness is surprising, since the rocks in drawings by Siyavush assume lively, almost fungal shapes, suggesting that this Shahnama painting was left unfinished.
Sheila R. Canby in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Footnotes:
1. Persian and Mughal Art. Exhibition, P. and D. Colnaghi, London. Catalogue by B[asil] W[illiam] Robinson. London, 1976, p. 5. Robinson notes that the image was misidentified by Sotheby’s when it was sold on February 5, 1935, lot 38, a mistake that was repeated in Grube 1962, no. 60; and Welch 1976, p. 21.
2. Robinson 1976 (footnote 1), p. 1; Robinson, B[asil] W[illiam]. "Shah Isma‘il II’s Copy of the Shah-Nama: Additional Material." Iran 43 (2005), pp. 291–99.
3. Ahmadibn Mir Munshi al-Husaini. Calligraphers and Painters: A Treatise by Qadi Ahmad, Son of Mir- Munshi (circa A.H. 1015/A.D. 1606). Translated by V[ladimir] Minorsky. Smithsonian Institution Publication 4339. Freer Gallery of Art Occasional Papers, vol. 3, no. 2. Washington, D.C., 1959, p. 191.
Signature: Siyavush

Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta‘liq script:

سیاوش
Siyavush
Sotheby's, London, February 5, 1935, lot 38; to J. Brummerfor MMA
Venice. Fondazione Giorgio Cini. "Miniature Islamiche dal XIII al XIX Secolo," 1962, no. 60.

Grube, Ernst J. "from Collections in the United States and Canada." In Muslim Miniature Paintings from the XIII to XIX Century. Venice: N. Pozza, 1962. no. 60, pp. 82-83, ill. pl. 60 (b/w).

Grube, Ernst J. "The Early School of Herat and its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries." In The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968. ill. pl. 81 (b/w).

Welch, Anthony. "Late Sixteenth-Century Painting at the Imperial Court of Iran." In Artists for the Shah. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976. p. 21.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 140, p. 212, ill. p. 212 (color).



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