Art/ Collection/ Art Object

"Battle Between Iranians and Turanians", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Muhammad al-Qivam al-Shirazi (active ca. 1560s)
Muhammad ibn Taj al-Din Haidar Muzahhib Shirazi (active 1560s–80s)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Attributed to Iran, Shiraz
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Accession Number:
Not on view
Banners flying, drums beating, and horns blaring, a pitched battle rages in this impressive double-page painting. In the thick of the battle, the larger-than-life Iranian hero Rustam, wearing a plumed white leopard-skin headdress, neatly disposes of one of his opponents. Illustrating a scene from the Persian national epic, the Shahnama, this highly detailed painting depicts a confrontation between the Iranians and their archenemies, the Turanians. The Turanians, appearing at the left, are dressed in variations upon contemporary Ottoman garb, including voluminous turbans and headdresses similar to those worn by their elite Janissary corps. The presence of chained artillery also links these figures to the Ottomans, who were known to utilize such firearms on the battlefield as early as the fifteenth century.[1]
While attributions for this painting have varied, a recent study places it within the sphere of sixteenth-century Safavid manuscript production in Shiraz.[2] It once illustrated one of the largest copies of the Shahnama produced in this period—a manuscript now known only through its dispersed pages.[3] This manuscript originally was a smaller volume of which only the inner text block survives. The oversized margins, along with their elaborate paintings, appear to be later additions. Surviving colophons attest to these two different campaigns of work. First, the main text was written and signed, but not dated, by the calligrapher Muhammad al-Qivam al-Shirazi.[4] About twenty years later, in A.H. 991/1583–84 A.D., the composite manuscript is said to have been completed by the illuminator Muhammad ibn Taj al-Din Haidar Muzahhib Shirazi, who provided details of its complicated history.[5] He is known to have collaborated in this period with other calligraphers on two large-scale Qur’an manuscripts, now in the collection of the Topkapı Palace Library.[6] While we can be confident that Muhammad ibn Taj al-Din Haidar had some role in the enlargement and illumination of the 1562–83 Shahnama manuscript, his part in the creation of this double-page painting remains unclear.
Denise-Marie Teece in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Elgood 1995, p. 33 (reference not in catalogue' s bibliography)
2. The folios previously have been published as Ottoman. See Grube 1968, pp. 214–15, no. 31; and also Grube, Ernst J. "Four Pages from a Turkish Sixteenth-Century Shahnama in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." In Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Asiens: In Memoriam Ernst Diez, edited by Oktay Aslanapa, pp. 237–55. Istanbul, 1963. Images of the doublepage painting are to be found there on p. 241 (fig. 4) and p. 242 (fig. 5), with other details (figs. 9–12). For their reattribution to sixteenth-century Shiraz, see Ulu[c], Lāle. "A Persian Epic, Perhaps for the Ottoman Sultan." Metropolitan Museum Journal 29 (1994), pp. 57–69, with images on pp. 58–59 (figs. 1–2), and additional details on p. 60 (figs. 3, 4, 5). See also Uluc 2006, pp. 326ff., and fig. 242.
3. Uluc 2006, p. 332.
4. His signature appears at the end of the text block, but without a date.
5. Uluc 2006, pp. 330–31, fig. 245 (color image of the colophon folios in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, nos. 14.692A verso and 14.491B recto).
6. Ibid., pp. 338ff.
Victor Goloubew, Paris (in 1929); Dikran G. Kelekian, New York (by 1934–d. 1951; his estate, New York, 1951–52;sold to MMA)
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. "Les Miniatures Orientales de la Collection Goloubew au Museum of Fine Arts de Boston." Ars Asiatica vol. XIII (1929). no. 97b, ill. pls. LIV-LVIII.

Uluc, Lale. "Sixteenth Century Shiraz manuscripts." In Turkman Governors Shiraz artisans and Ottoman collectors. 1st ed. Istanbul, Turkey: Turkiye is Bankasi; Kultur Yayinlari, 2006. pp. 326-27.

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. 144, pp. 217-218, ill. p. 217 (color).

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