Sotheby's Studies: The Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp

London | 26 April 2023

The Shahnameh manuscript made for Shah Tahmasp of Persia (1514-76, r.1524-76) is universally acknowledged as one of the supreme illustrated manuscripts of any period or culture an among the greatest works of art in the world. The key to its brilliance lies in the 258 illustrations and illumination, all executed between about 1520 and 1540 at a time when the art of Persian painting had reached its absolute zenith. Probably no other Persian work of art, save architecture, has ever involved such enormous expense or taken so much artists’ time.

This folio depicts a battle from the Iran-Turan conflict. The Turanian commander Piran was enraged by the news of the death of his brother Human at the hands of the youthful Iranian Bizhan. To seek revenge Piran instructs their brother Nastihan to lead a nocturnal raid on the Iranian army at Mount Raybad. Unfortunately, before the Turanians reach the Iranian camp they are discovered by the Iranian commander Gudarz who alerts Bizhan and his troops. A battle ensues and Bizhan shoots Nastihan’s horse and then brings Nastihan down with a fatal blow of his mace.

Attributed to the artist Basdan Qara, the illustrated page is being presented as the highlight of the Arts of the Islamic World & India, including Fine Rugs auction on the 26th of April.

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