Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Folio From A Shahnama: Bahram Gur Kills Two Lions To Prove His Right To The Throne Of Iran
Safavid, 17th century CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper
Page 35 x 21.9 cm; Image 24 x 12.5 cm
The Sasanian king Bahram Gur was regarded by both Safavid and Mughal rulers as a model hunter and king. To prove his right to the throne of Iran, Bahram Gur must kill two lions. The celebrated Shahnama hero levels his ox-headed mace on the first lion, which looks up at the blood spurting forth from his head. The second lion springs to action as onlookers behind a rocky hill with lion-head grotesques observe the scene, fingers to lips to gesture their amazement at Bahram Gur’s power. The crown and throne of Iran are centre-stage in this detached painting which came from a Shahnama manuscript signed by Mu'in Musavvir, dated 1077 H/1666-67 CE (see Farhad 1990). There are five more leaves in the collection from the same manuscript. The present painting is in the style of Mu'in Musavvir, the eminent Safavid painter best known for his single-page portraits, although he worked on Shahnama projects as well, often outlining a composition to be completed by other artists. This work represents a conservative strain in mid-seventeenth century painting, lacking the Europeanising elements of multi-point perspective or use of shading.
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