Tahmina Comes Into Rustam's Chamber, Illustrated Folio From A Manuscript Of The Shahnama Of Firdawsi
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tahmina Comes into Rustam's Chamber, illustrated folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama of Firdawsi
Work Type
manuscript folio
c. 1434
Creation Place: Central Asia, Afghanistan, Herat
Timurid period
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
painting: 20.8 x 10.5 cm (8 3/16 x 4 1/8 in.)
Page: 30 x 17.5 cm
H. Khan Monif, New York, NY, (by 1939), sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1939.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. Elise Cabot Forbes and Mr. Eric Schroeder and Annie S. Coburn Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
This Shahnama painting shows the new direction manuscript painting took in the Timurid court workshops of the fifteenth century. Highest quality materials were applied with exquisite draftsmanship at a very small scale and in a two-dimensional space. Although no text is preserved, later compositions based on this painting confirm that it illustrates the Shahnama episode where Tahmina, the beautiful daughter of the King of Samangan, comes quietly at night to Rustam’s chamber to tell him that she wishes to marry him and bear his child. Caught by surprise but enticed by her charm Rustam spends the night with Tahmina. The painting draws our attention to the nonverbal communication between Tahmina and Rustam as well as the fine details of the setting. A bejeweled Tahmina wearing a fur-lined coat looks coyly behind the candle held by her chambermaid. Rustam, shown under the covers, gazes intently at her figure with his hand on a pillow beckoning her. His armor and weapons, situated behind his bed, are symbolic of his heroic valor. With such jewel-like details this painting is not only a great work of art, but a testimony to the splendor of Timurid palace interiors, now lost.
Publication History

Phyllis Ackerman, Guide to the Exhibition of Persian Art, exh. cat., Iranian Institute (New York, NY, 1940), pp.251-252

Eric Schroeder, Persian Miniatures in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1942), pp. 51-52, fig. 8

Arthur Upham Pope, Masterpieces of Persian Art, The Dryden Press (New York, 1945), p. 161, pl. 119

Ivan Stchoukine, Les Peintures des Manuscrits Timurides, P. Geuthner (Paris, 1954), p. 8, no. 3, p. 42, no. XVI

Basil William Robinson, Persian Drawings from the 14th through the 19th Century, Shorewood Publishers Inc. (New York, NY, 1965), p. 132, pl. 11

Basil William Robinson, Two Persian Manuscripts in the Library of the Marquess of Bute, Oriental Art (Winter 1971), vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 333-336, p. 335

Eleanor Sims, The Timurid Imperial Style: Its Origins and Diffusion, Art and Archaeology Research Papers (1974), vol. 6, pp. 56-67, p. 61

Marianna Shreve Simpson, Arab and Persian Painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1980), pp. 11-12, 35-37, no. 8, ill.

Michele de Angelis and Thomas W. Lentz, Architecture in Islamic Painting: Permanent and Impermanent Worlds, brochure, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, Mass, 1982)

Wiebke Walther, Die Frau im Islam (1983), p. 30, fig. 19

A. M. Kevorkian and J.P. Sicre, Les Jardins du desir: Sept siecles de peinture persane, Phebus (Paris, France, 1983), pp30-31

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), page 73/figure 76

Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, exh. cat., Museum Associates (Los Angeles, CA, 1989), pp130-131, 338, cat. no.45

Andrew Pekarik, Painting Behind the Scenes, Hyperion Press (New York, NY, 1992), pg. 16, color

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), page 130-131

Ehsan Yarshater and Stuart Cary Welch, The Lion and the Throne: Stories From the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi Volume I, Mage Publishers (Washington, D.C, 1998), page 270/details on pgs 208, 210

Eleanor Sims, Boris I. Marshak, and Ernst Grube, Peerless Images: Persian Painting and its Sources, Yale University Press (New Haven; London, 2002), pp. 195-196, fig. 108

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 51

Oliver Watson, "The Case of the Ottoman Table", Journal of the David Collection, ed. Kjeld von Folsach and Joachim Meyer, The David Collection (Copenhagen, 2010), Vol. 3, pp.22-53., p. 42, fig. 29.

Exhibition History

Arab and Persian Painting, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/10/1981 - 03/09/1981

The House of Timur: Princely Arts in Fifteenth-Century Iran and Central Asia, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, 04/14/1989 - 07/06/1989; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 08/13/1989 - 11/05/1989

Islamic Art: The Power of Pattern, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/23/1989 - 01/17/1990

Paintings for Princes: The Art of the Book in Islam, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/27/1990 - 03/25/1990

Transformations: Asia East and West, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/19/1992 - 02/14/1993

In Detail: Looking at Persian, Turkish and Indian Pictures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/11/1995 - 01/21/1996

The Sensuous and the Sublime, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/07/2001 - 12/30/2001

Romantic Interludes: Women in Firdawsi's Shahnama, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 04/24/2010 - 01/16/2011

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 05/14/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu