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- Previous Owner(s)
Shah Isma'il II 1537 - 1577
Georges Demotte 1877 - 1923
Dr. M. Millon
Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black nasta’liq script; recto: illustration and text: Kay Ka'us chained in a grotto by the white demon, 4 columns, 6 lines of text, marginal writings; verso: text: Ka'us sends a letter to Rustam the son of Zal and asks for help, 4 columns, 22 lines of text.
Border: The recto is set in gold, black, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper; the verso is set in gold, red, green, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper.
While the Shahnama is rich in history and legend, it is especially so in its descriptions of Iran’s legendary villains. This boldly composed folio illustrates the arrogant and now blind king Kay-Kavus, who was enchained by white divs (demons) after reckless pride led him into a hopeless and unnecessary military campaign. Surprisingly, this dramatic episode—which juxtaposes good and evil forces and human and supernatural powers—was rarely depicted, and this illustration is the earliest of only three known examples.
The painting belongs to an incomplete copy of the Shahnama, prepared between 1576 and 1577 for Shah Tahmasb’s son and successor, Shah Ismail. It has been ascribed to the celebrated painter Siyavush, whose skill is evident in his characterization of the protagonists. His depiction of the blinded and remorseful Kay-Kavus stands in sharp contrast to that of the gleeful white demon, perched comfortably on the rock outside the grotto. Even the expressions of the snarling bear and the growling leopard are carefully rendered and further enhance the composition’s menacing air.
- Collection Area(s)
- Arts of the Islamic World
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- Google Cultural Institute
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