Battle of Karbala

Abdallah Musavvar Iranian

Not on view

This monumental canvas depicts scenes from the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (the third Shi'i Imam and ‘Ali's son) and his family at the hands of the Sunni caliph Yazid in the Karbala desert in 680 A.D. Canvases like this example were used as backdrops for recitations of the story of Husayn's martyrdom. They were portable; the reciter or parda-dar would nail them to a wall of a building and point to the relevant scenes as he recited the story. The narrative unfolds from left to right. The reciter's expressive and performative telling of the story is meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience as they hear about the agonies suffered by Husayn's followers in the scorching Karbala desert.

Battle of Karbala, Abdallah Musavvar (Iranian, died 1931), Oil on canvas

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