Folio from a Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi (died 1020); recto: The bier of Iskandar (Alexander the Great); verso: text


Historical period(s)
Il-Khanid dynasty, Mongol period, ca. 1330
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W: 57.6 x 39.7 cm (22 11/16 x 15 5/8 in)
Iran, Tabriz
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 04: Engaging the Senses: Art in the Islamic World

Detached manuscript folio

Alexander, Il-Khanid dynasty (1256 - 1353), Iran, Mongol period (1220 - 1380), naskh script, Shahnama, WWII-era provenance

To 1938
Kirkor Minassian (1874-1944), New York. [1]

From 1938
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Kirkor Minassian, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Kirkor Minassian 1874 - 1944


The Shahnama (Book of kings), the national epic of Iran, recounts the adventures of many legendary kings and heroes from the mythical creation of the world to the fall of the historical Sasanian dynasty in 651. Among the most memorable characters is the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, known in Persian as Iskandar. Firdawsi explains that Iskandar was the son of Darab (Darius II), who had married a Greek princess, and justifies his invasion of Iran, which the historic Alexander undertook in the year 330 B.C.E., as an attempt to claim his right to the Persian throne.

This remarkable painting is from one of the earliest and most celebrated illustrated volumes of the Shahnama and depicts Alexander's bejeweled coffin in an elaborate interior setting. While Aristotle weeps quietly into a handkerchief, Alexander's mother flings herself onto the bier. Her pose, as well as those of the veiled mourners in the foreground, poignantly expresses the drama and pathos of the scene.

Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum

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