"Nushirvan Receives Mihras, Envoy of Caesar", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: ca. 1300–30

Geography: Made in Iran or Iraq

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1934

Accession Number: 34.24.3


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.