Afrasiyab And Siyavush Embrace (Painting, Recto; Text, Verso), Illustrated Folio From A Manuscript Of The Shahnama By Firdawsi
recto © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.13
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Afrasiyab and Siyavush Embrace (painting, recto; text, verso), illustrated folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Shahnama by Firdawsi
Classification
Measuring Devices
Date
1520–40
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Tabriz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Black ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on off-white paper, with underdrawing in black ink
Dimensions
47.1 x 31.8 cm (18 9/16 x 12 1/2 in.)
Provenance
Shah Tahmasp, Iran (until 1568). Sultan Selim II, Istanbul (from 1568). Sultan Selim III, Istanbul (by 1800). Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Paris (by 1903–d. 1934) by descent to; his son, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris and Pregny, near Geneva (by 1955–d. 1957), sold; through [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 1959]; to Arthur A. Houghton Jr., New York (1959-1988), sold; through [Christies, October 1988, lot no. 1]. [Spink and Son Ltd., London, April-May 1992, lot no. 50], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1992-2001), gift to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.13
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
In this part of Firdawsi’s epic, the Iranian king Kay Kavus decided to wage war against Turan (Turkestan), even though his son, prince Siyavush, had signed a treaty with the Turanian king, Afrasiyab. Siyavush chose to disregard his father’s orders and accept Afrasiyab’s invitation to visit Turan and take refuge in the realm, thereby averting yet another war between Iran and Turan.
This folio was part of a famous illustrated manuscript of the Shahnama produced at the Safavid court during the 1520s and 1530s. Known as the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, after the ruler (r. 1524–76) for whom it was made, the book originally consisted of 759 text folios and 258 paintings of superb quality. This illustration portrays a moment of optimism and brotherhood between the Turanians and the Iranians. Having dismounted from their horses, Afrasiyab and Siyavush embrace, to the delight of their attendants and supporters. Piran, Afrasiyab’s aged advisor, who has played an important role in fostering a relationship of trust between the former foes, stands on the left, a white-bearded figure witnessing the exchange of affection. The emotional scene takes place in front of a colorfully decorated palatial structure that likely reflects contemporary Safavid architecture. The headgear of all the figures, Iranians and Turanians alike, consists of turbans folded around caps with tall red projections (taj-i Haydari). These distinctive turbans were worn by the followers of Tahmasp and suggest a sense of identification with the Shahnama at the Safavid court.

Recto. Subtitles in the text of this folio read, "Afrasiyab receives Siyavush in Turkistan."
Text corresponds with M. Ramazani (1963) vol.1, p. 466, lines 11541-11553.
Ramazani subtitle reads, "Afrasiyab receives Siyavush."
Text corresponds with J. Mohl (1976), vol. 2, pp. 308-310, lines 1350-1361.
Mohl subtitle reads, "Entrevue de Siawusch et d'Afrasiab."

Verso. Text corresponds with M. Ramazani (1963) vol. 1, pp. 466-68, lines 11554-11609.
Ramazani subtitles read, "Siyavush displays his prowess in the square."
Text corresponds with J. Mohl (1976), vol. 2, pp. 310-314, lines 1362-1408.
Mohl subtitles read, "Siawusch montre son adresse devant Afrasiab."

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
72

Afrasiyab and Siyavush Embrace
Folio from a manuscript of the Shāhnāma by Firdawsi
Recto: text and illustration, with title
“Afrasiyab receives Siyavush in Turan”
Verso: text
Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period, 1520–40
Black ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on off-white paper, with underdrawing in black ink
Folio: 47.1 × 31.8 cm (18 9/16 × 12 1/2 in.)
2002.50.13

Published (selected list): Dickson and S. C. Welch 1981a, vol. 2, no. 114; Christie’s 1988, lot 1; Davis 2000, 47, 82, 297; McWilliams 2002a, 13, fig. 5; Harvard University Art Museums 2003, 19; Blair and Bloom 2003, 178, fig. 16; McWilliams 2004, 7, fig. 9; Canby 2011, 134.

In this part of Firdawsi’s epic, the Iranian king Kay Kavus decided to wage war against Turan (Turkestan), even though his son, prince Siyavush, had signed a treaty with the Turanian king, Afrasiyab. Siyavush chose to disregard his father’s orders and accept Afrasiyab’s invitation to visit Turan and take refuge in the realm, thereby averting yet another war between Iran and Turan.

This folio was part of a famous illustrated manuscript of the Shāhnāma produced at the Safavid court during the 1520s and 1530s. Known as the Shāhnāma of Shah Tahmasp, after the ruler (r. 1524–76) for whom it was made, the book originally consisted of 759 text folios and 258 paintings of superb quality.[1] This illustration portrays a moment of optimism and brotherhood between the Turanians and the Iranians. Having dismounted from their horses, Afrasiyab and Siyavush embrace, to the delight of their attendants and supporters. Piran, Afrasiyab’s aged advisor, who has played an important role in fostering a relationship of trust between the former foes, stands on the left, a white-bearded figure witnessing the exchange of affection. The emotional scene takes place in front of a colorfully decorated palatial structure that likely reflects contemporary Safavid architecture. The headgear of all the figures, Iranians and Turanians alike, consists of turbans folded around caps with tall red projections (tāj-I Ḥaydarī). These distinctive turbans were worn by the followers of Tahmasp and suggest a sense of identification with the Shāhnāma at the Safavid court.

Mika M. Natif

[1] For monographs on this work, see Dickson and S. C. Welch 1981a and Canby 2011. The manuscript is now dispersed.

Publication History

Martin Bernard Dickson and Stuart Cary Welch, The Houghton Shahnameh, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1981), vol II, image 114

Indian and Islamic Works of Art to be exhibited for sale by Spink and Son Ltd., auct. cat., Spink & Son Ltd. (London, 1992), front cover, p. 62, fig. 50

Fathers and Sons: Stories from the Shahanmeh of Ferdowsi, Mage Publishers (Washington, D.C., 2000), p 47, 82, 297

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2001-2002 (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 19

Mary McWilliams, Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 19-21, ill.; p. 222, cat. 72, ill.

Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, "The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on the Study of an Unwieldy Field", The Art Bulletin (March 2003), vol. LXXXV, no. 1, pp178, fig. 16

Mary McWilliams, "With Quite Different Eyes: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art", Apollo, ed. David Ekserdjian (November 2002), vol. CLVI no. 490, pp. 12-16, p.13, fig. 5

Exhibition History

Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005

Re-View: S231 (Islamic rotation: 5) Heroic Gestes: Epic Tales from Firdawsi's Shahnama, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/18/2010 - 11/27/2010

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted