Illustrations from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp c. 1522-1540

From the portion of the manuscript in the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Tehran.


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Picture source: Islam Oriente, Nueva edición. Captions from the Shahnama Project
Although the story is of earlier periods, the figures wear early 16th century Persian costume.

Composed in the tenth century by the poet Firdowsi, the Shah-nameh or Book of Kings is Iran's central literary work, a historical epic peopled with monarchs—some of inspiring goodness, others of unmatched wickedness—handsome paladins, beautiful maidens, malevolent witches, and treacherous demons. This manuscript of the Shah-nameh is the most sumptuous one ever produced. Containing scores of paintings where other sixteenth-century Shah-nameh manuscripts contain a dozen, the Houghton Shah-nameh (identified by the name of a previous owner, Arthur A. Houghton, Jr.) is thought to have been commissioned about 1522 by Shah Isma'il, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, as a present for his son, Prince Tahmasp. Court artists and craftsmen continued their work on the 759 folios for the better part of two decades; as a consequence, the book offers a fascinating mixture of artistic styles.

Text links to larger images.
Manuchihr leads his army to fight Salm and Tur
Siyavush defeats Garsivaz
Farud and Tukhvara view the Iranians from a mountain top
Farud shoots Tus' horse from under him
Kamus fights Giv and Tus
Rustam captures and kills Kamus
Rustam overturns Chingish by seizing the tail of his horse
Detail of horse from Rustam kills Gahar Gahani
Rustam fights Kafur the Cannibal
Kay Khusrau kills Shida
Iskandar kills the Fur of Hind
Bahram Chubina kills the fleeing Sava Shah


Other Illustrations from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp
Other Persian Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Other 16th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers












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