The Traveler’s Rescue by the Great Bird (al-Ta’ir al-Kabir), from Aja’ib al-makhluqat (Wonders of Creation) by al-Qazvini


Author: Muhammad al-Qazvini (ca. 1203-1283)
Historical period(s)
Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, Turkmen period, early 15th century
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H x W: 32.7 x 22.4 cm (12 7/8 x 8 13/16 in)
Iraq or Eastern Turkey
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Detached manuscript folio

bird, Iraq, naskh script, Turkey, Turkmen period (1378 - 1508), Wonders of Creation, WWII-era provenance

To 1945
Friedrich Paul Theodor Sarre (1865-1945). [1]

To 1954
Mme. Maria Louise Sarre, Ascona, Switzerland. [2]

From 1954
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Dr. Paul Kempner, New York on behalf of Mme. Maria Louise Sarre, Ascona, Switzerland. [3]


[1] Object file F1954.33-114, undated folder sheet note 2. “The manuscript was originally acquired by Prof. Friedrich Sarre in Algiers”.

[2] Object file F1954.33-114, undated folder sheet note 1. See also Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List after 1920 file, Collections Management Office.

[3] See note 2. See also invoice dated July 22, 1954 and correspondences between Dr. Paul Kempner and the Freer Gallery, dated July 21, 1954; copies in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

Mme. Maria Louise Sarre
Friedrich Paul Theodor Sarre


In describing the wonders of the Persian sea, al-Qazwini relates a well-known sailor's tale that also occurs in the Voyage of Sinbad in the celebrated Arabian Nights. According to the story, a debt-burdened man from the city of Isfahan takes to the sea with a group of merchants. During his voyage, his ship is caught in a whirlpool, and the captain announces that one person needs to sacrifice himself to save the others. The Isfahani volunteers on the condition that his fellow travelers pay his debts. They consent, and the man in left on an island inhabited by a large, white bird, who flies in every night and leaves again the next morning. One day, the Isfahani decides to try and leave the island. He grabs the legs of the bird, who carries him across the sea and drops him off in the middle of a village. The villagers are so astonished and impressed that they richly reward the Isfahani. After some time, the Isfahani finds his fellow travelers and recounts his miraculous escape from the island, attributing it to divine intervention.

Drawing on the most dramatic moment in the story, the painting shows the terrified turbaned figure, firmly clasping the legs of the white bird as it carries him through the air.

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

Copyright with museum

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