Shahnameh- Fitzwilliam Museum

King Afrasiyab of Turan and his general Barman invaded Iran. Nowzar of Iran took refuge in Dahistan together with his army commander, Qaran, whose brother had been killed by Barman. Qaran and other paladins (champions) launched a night attack behind Turanian lines and encountered Afrasiyab’s force led by Barman at the White Castle. Here, we see the armies ready to engage. The Iranians are on the left, identified by the Safavid taj, the red caps that project from the turbans of their…

King Afrasiyab of Turan and his general Barman invaded Iran. Nowzar of Iran took refuge in Dahistan together with his army commander, Qaran, whose brother had been killed by Barman. Qaran and other paladins (champions) launched a night attack behind Turanian lines and encountered Afrasiyab’s force led by Barman at the White Castle. Here, we see the armies ready to engage. The Iranians are on the left, identified by the Safavid taj, the red caps that project from the turbans of their…

After visiting the Ka‘ba, Eskandar (Alexander the Great) led his troops to Egypt. Queen Qeydafeh of Andalus (Candace of Meroë) sent a spy to make a portrait of him. Eskandar came to Qeydafeh’s court disguised as his ambassador, but the queen recognised him and he had to admit his true identity. The illustration departs from the text.

After visiting the Ka‘ba, Eskandar (Alexander the Great) led his troops to Egypt. Queen Qeydafeh of Andalus (Candace of Meroë) sent a spy to make a portrait of him. Eskandar came to Qeydafeh’s court disguised as his ambassador, but the queen recognised him and he had to admit his true identity. The illustration departs from the text.

The story of Alexander the Great, called Eskandar in the Shahnameh, is an important chapter in the epic. On his way from India to North Africa he made a stop in Mecca, which may be seen as a rite of passage in his long journey towards self-discovery.

The story of Alexander the Great, called Eskandar in the Shahnameh, is an important chapter in the epic. On his way from India to North Africa he made a stop in Mecca, which may be seen as a rite of passage in his long journey towards self-discovery.

Eskandar, or Alexander the Great, went into the Land of Darkness to seek the Water of Life, but failed to find it. Here, he sends his horse forward into the swirling darkness. His followers look anxious and even two of the horses stare at each other, uncertain of what they are about to encounter. The flame-like protuberances on Eskandar’s helmet probably allude to his identification with the qur’anic figure Dhu’l-Qarnayn (‘Lord, or Possessor, of Two Horns’).

Eskandar, or Alexander the Great, went into the Land of Darkness to seek the Water of Life, but failed to find it. Here, he sends his horse forward into the swirling darkness. His followers look anxious and even two of the horses stare at each other, uncertain of what they are about to encounter. The flame-like protuberances on Eskandar’s helmet probably allude to his identification with the qur’anic figure Dhu’l-Qarnayn (‘Lord, or Possessor, of Two Horns’).

This double-page image captures the splendour of the Persian court. On the right, Lohrasp, who has just succeeded Key Khosrow, is enthroned among courtiers and entertained by musicians beside the pool, while an attendant offers him pomegranates and another one, behind the throne, holds his sword.

This double-page image captures the splendour of the Persian court. On the right, Lohrasp, who has just succeeded Key Khosrow, is enthroned among courtiers and entertained by musicians beside the pool, while an attendant offers him pomegranates and another one, behind the throne, holds his sword.

In this illustration, the youthful Manuchehr is centrally enthroned and juxtaposed with the maturing warrior Rostam seated on the left. The painting does not illustrate a specific incident in the Shahnameh and Rostam is not even mentioned in the text, though he was born in the reign of Manuchehr.

In this illustration, the youthful Manuchehr is centrally enthroned and juxtaposed with the maturing warrior Rostam seated on the left. The painting does not illustrate a specific incident in the Shahnameh and Rostam is not even mentioned in the text, though he was born in the reign of Manuchehr.

this image depicts Key Khosrow’s successor, Lohrasp, enthroned. Here we see figures characteristic of the Il-Khanid court: young attendants wear split-brimmed Mongol caps with their hair in bunches, while old, bearded figures with aquiline profiles have turbans. The latter have long written scrolls and pen-boxes.  They are Persian bureaucrats, indispensable to the running of the empire. The lotus decoration on the throne back is typical for the period.

this image depicts Key Khosrow’s successor, Lohrasp, enthroned. Here we see figures characteristic of the Il-Khanid court: young attendants wear split-brimmed Mongol caps with their hair in bunches, while old, bearded figures with aquiline profiles have turbans. The latter have long written scrolls and pen-boxes. They are Persian bureaucrats, indispensable to the running of the empire. The lotus decoration on the throne back is typical for the period.

we see Ferdowsi, the figure closest to the river, in the garden of Soltan Mahmud and the court poets of Ghazni who are testing his skills. Their faces betray comic alarm, while Ferdowsi’s gesture suggests exposition tempered by courtesy.

we see Ferdowsi, the figure closest to the river, in the garden of Soltan Mahmud and the court poets of Ghazni who are testing his skills. Their faces betray comic alarm, while Ferdowsi’s gesture suggests exposition tempered by courtesy.

Siyavosh, the son of King Key Kavus, returned to his father’s court from Sistan in south-east Iran, where he had been trained by Rostam. The king’s wife, Sudabeh, fell in love with Siyavosh. When he rejected her advances, she accused him of violating her and ‘borrowed’ her nurse’s stillborn twins as evidence. Here, Key Kavus watches Siyavosh and his black horse emerge unscathed from the ordeal set him, to prove his innocence or guilt.

Siyavosh, the son of King Key Kavus, returned to his father’s court from Sistan in south-east Iran, where he had been trained by Rostam. The king’s wife, Sudabeh, fell in love with Siyavosh. When he rejected her advances, she accused him of violating her and ‘borrowed’ her nurse’s stillborn twins as evidence. Here, Key Kavus watches Siyavosh and his black horse emerge unscathed from the ordeal set him, to prove his innocence or guilt.

Key Khosrow spent the night reading the Avesta (the primary collection of sacred Zoroastrian texts) and bade his companions farewell. In the morning they searched for him in vain, fell asleep and were buried in the snow.

Key Khosrow spent the night reading the Avesta (the primary collection of sacred Zoroastrian texts) and bade his companions farewell. In the morning they searched for him in vain, fell asleep and were buried in the snow.

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