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The meeting of Zal with Rudaba, an illustrated and illuminated leaf from a copy of Firdausi's Shahnameh, ascribed to Balchand, Mughal, circa 1610
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The meeting of Zal with Rudaba, an illustrated and illuminated leaf from a copy of Firdausi's Shahnameh, ascribed to Balchand, Mughal, circa 1610
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Details & Cataloguing

The Khosrovani-Diba Collection

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The meeting of Zal with Rudaba, an illustrated and illuminated leaf from a copy of Firdausi's Shahnameh, ascribed to Balchand, Mughal, circa 1610

Provenance

P & D Colnaghi and Co. Ltd., London, 1976.
Ex-collection Maurice and Edmond de Rothschild.

Literature

T. Falk, Persian and Mughal Art, P & D Colnaghi and Co. Ltd., London, 1976, pp.176, 203, no.88ii. 

Catalogue Note

This miniature depicts the scene in the Shahnameh in which Zal, one of the heroes of the poem, son of Sam and father of the great Rustam, meets his future wife Rudaba, the daughter of Mehrab king of Kabul and a descendant of Zahhak. The artist has included two parts of the story in a single illustration. In the centre, the maidservants of Rudaba gather flowers and blossom outside the walls of the city in order to attract the attention of Zal, whose nearby camp is shown in the lower part of the picture. In the upper part, Zal, having fallen for Rudaba, is shown climbing the walls to be with her. The scene is executed with skill and compositional balance, with a strong diagonal thrust from the upper right to the lower left offset by the opposite diagonal movement of Zal climbing the walls at the upper left, and displays details and characteristic that accord with Balchand's style.

The illustration comes from an interesting manuscript of circa 1610 that must have been prepared for Jahangir, as the artists responsible for the few known leaves include Balchand (the present example), Bishandas, Inayat, Govardhan, Payag, Dhanraj and Aqa Reza, while the opening double page of illumination has been attributed to Mansur (see Sotheby's, London, 25 April 2012, lot 484). All of these are royal artists who were active in Jahangir’s atelier, thus strongly indicating the emperor’s patronage of the manuscript. Jahangir’s patronage is further indicated by the close similarities between the border designs of this Shahnameh/ Garshaspnameh and those of the well-known manuscript of the Farhang-i Jahangiri, the Persian dictionary which was prepared for Jahangir circa 1608.

There are seven complete text folios from the Garshaspnameh in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (11A.34, see Leach 1995, pp.327-9), and other text folios have appeared at auction as follows: Sotheby's, London, 7 April 1975, lot 14 (again at Christie's, London, 26 April 2005, lot 239); Sotheby's, London, 12 April 1976, lot 4, and 23 April 1979, lot 36. Approximately seven illustrated pages survive, including one in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Pal 1993, no.68), one in the Cleveland Museum of Art (45.171, Leach 1986, no.21), one in the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Smart 1991, fig.6, p.139), two sold by P & D Colnaghi in 1976 (Falk 1976, no.88i-ii, of which the present example is 88ii), one in the David Collection, Copenhagen (sold at Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1971, lot 188A, and again 28 April 2004, lot 57) and one sold at Sotheby's, New York, 16 March 2016, lot 858. A border from the same manuscript, devoid of either a miniature or text panel, was sold in these rooms 24 October 2007, lot 35.

The majority of the pages listed above have been described as coming from a copy of the Shahnameh, but in the catalogue of a sale in these rooms on 28 April 2004, lot 57, an illustrated page was described as being from a copy of the Garshaspnameh of Hakim Abu Ali ibn Ahmad Tusi, which although similar to the Shahnameh of Firdausi is a separate text (it had previously been sold in these rooms 7 December 1971, lot 188A, where it was catalogued as coming from a Shahnameh). However, the opening illuminated pages sold in these rooms on 25 April 2012, lot 484 were undoubtedly from the Shahnameh, being the opening of the preface to the Baysunghuri edition, whereas the illustrated page sold at Sotheby's in New York on 16 March 2016, lot 858 (Nariman lassoes the Khaqan of Chin), was undoubtedly from the Garshaspnameh. (It is worth noting that the text on the present leaf is not the same as in the Dabir-siaghi printed edition of the Shahnameh). Thus it is possible either that there were two separate illustrated manuscripts on a similar theme made for Jahangir around 1610 – one of the Shahnameh and one of the Garshaspnameh, or that one single manuscript was made that included both texts. The dimensions of all the published pages are all almost identical.

Balchand was a royal artist active from the end of Akbar's reign to the last decade of Shah Jahan's, and contributed to the Windsor Padshanama. He was with Prince Salim at his court in Allahabad, returning to the imperial studio when Jahangir came to the throne in 1605. His style was marked by clarity, elegance and portraiture skills. His brother was the famous painter Payag. For further discussion of Balchand see Seyller 2011, Smart 1991, Leach 1995, vol.II, pp.1098-9.

The Khosrovani-Diba Collection

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