Silk; cut velvet; L. 15 3/8 in. (39 cm), W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Purchase, The Seley Foundation Inc., Schimmel Foundation Inc., Ruth Blumka and Charles D. Kelekian Gifts, and Rogers Fund, 1978 (1978.60)
This delicately woven silk velvet depicts the love story “Khusrau and Shirin” by the Persian poet Nizami (d. 1209). The Sasanian king Khusrau has become smitten with the Armenian princess Shirin based on a portrait delivered to him at court. Impatient to see his future bride in person, he ventures from Iran to Armenia as she is simultaneously being brought to him, and the two unexpectedly cross paths while Shirin is bathing in a stream. Larger fragments of the same velvet retaining the full design repeat show Khusrau, in full Safavid courtier dress, seated on horseback looking on at Shirin in wonder. Except for a red cloth around her waist, Shirin’s clothes hang from a nearby tree. The black silk used in the areas of Shirin’s hair and the tree branches has oxidized, and only the foundation fabric remains.