Object Record

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Catalog number 58.37
Artist Firdawsi
Title King Rostam recognizes his son Sohrab
Object Name Manuscript
Description This is a manuscript page from the Shahnameh (or Book of Kings) of Firdawsi.
The paper is burnished with a hard stone or glass to prepare it for use, and the artist creates a preliminary drawing before painting. The calligraphy is written in modern Persian, which is a slightly modified Arabic alphabet. One of the distinctions of Persian painting is the use of brilliant colors created from minerals and animal or plant matter. This manuscript page can be placed in the Timurid period (1370-1507 AD) based on the vivid colors, gestures, architecture and natural background, and the Chinese influence of ovoid faces and spiky moustaches. There were different centers of production and this page may have come from the Shiraz school. This manuscript page displays a disinterest in western-style perspective. Persian artists knew this technique and could render images convincingly, but preferred to convey the emotionality of a story. Additionally, the depiction of nature and architecture emphasizes an intimate moment between a royal father and his son.

The Shahnameh is an epic composed by the poet Firdawsi in 1010, based on pre-Islamic sources recounting the history of the Persian kings. Similar to Renaissance Europe's translations of Greek texts, early Persian literature was translated into Arabic and modern Persian in the Middle East. The patronage of the arts, philosophy, and the sciences flourished during the Timurid period, which can be considered a rival to the contemporaneous Italian Quattrocento. Handmade manuscripts were the only type of books produced, even though Muslims knew how to print. One of the most important developments during the Timurid period was the creation of the Persian miniature painting. Middle Eastern manuscripts fascinated early Renaissance artists, who emulated them by incorporating "pseudo-Arabic" calligraphy and other Islamic motifs into their paintings.
* Caroline Gerkis, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 56.

The poet Firdawsi (or Abu 'l Kasim, ca. 941-1020) was commissioned by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni to write a history of Iran. For 35 years he labored over this epic work, known as the "Shahnamah," or Book of Kings. The poem was completed around 1010 and is divided into two major sections. The first is mythological, telling stories of legendary Persian kings and heroes such as Rostam and Kai Khosrow. The second part is historical, though romanticized, and presents figues such as the Persian King Darius and Alexander the Great.

One of the two manuscript pages seen here illustrates the most famous and popular legend of the "Shahnamah" about Rostam. In a storyline recalling Classical Greek tragedy, the hero kills his own son, Sohrab, while both characters are unaware of the other's identity. After Sohrab is fatally wounded and the two men have their final conversation, they realize (too late) that they are father and son.

Medium/Material Tempera on paper
Dimensions H-14.25 W-10 inches
Year Range from 1370.0
Year Range to 1507.0
Search Terms Ancient
West Asia
Timurid rule
15th century AD
Exhibition and Publication History *"Queens College Art Collection," 1960, #200.
*"Art of the East," Klapper Library, 1985, #22.
*"Director's Choice, Part I," G-TM, 4/17-6/1/02, #36. A. Winter, Curator.
*"The Grandeur of Islamic Art in Image and Object," GTM, February 13 - May 31, 2007. Lisa Brody, Co-Curator.
* "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 56, ill.
Culture Iranian