Art

Qaydafa Recognizes Iskandar from his Portrait (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi

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Qaydafa Recognizes Iskandar from his Portrait (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi, c. 1480
Series/Book Title: Shahnama by Firdawsi
Manuscript Folio
Persian
,
15th century
Aq Qoyunlu period
Creation Place: Shiraz, Iran
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
34 x 21.5 cm (13 3/8 x 8 7/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.21
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
Description
Queen Qaydafa was the ruler of Andalusia. She was wise, just, prosperous, and admired by her subjects. Upon hearing of the victories and success of Iskandar (Alexander the Great), she ordered her painter to gain surreptitious access to the eminent king, study him carefully, and produce a detailed, full-length portrait of him, to supplement the portraits of great rulers she already possessed. Following his conquests in the east, Iskandar sent Qaydafa a letter demanding her immediate and unconditional submission, which she refused. When Iskandar, disguised as his own messenger, appeared at her court, the queen recognized him and countered his denials of his royal identity with the portrait made by her artist. After the two conversed and recognized their mutual wisdom and talents, Iskandar returned to his land with gifts, having learned an invaluable lesson.
The illustration captures the moment when Iskandar, shown sitting on a golden seat in front of Qaydafa, sees his portrait. Even though the text calls for him to be in disguise as a messenger, he wears a crown like the one in the painting he is examining. The queen, in a golden diadem, gestures toward Iskandar from her large throne. The protagonists are surrounded by the queen’s female retinue, who peek at the painting and talk to one another. Although, according to the text, the episode takes place at the Andalusian court, the illustration has transformed the setting into a fifteenth-century Iranian or Central Asian palace.

Recto. Subtitles in the text of this folio read, "Qaydafa recognizes Iskandar." Text corresponds with M. Ramazani (1963) vol. 4, pp. 36-37, lines 855-875. Text corresponds with J. Mohl (1976), vol. 5, pp. 172-74, lines 861-881. Qaydafa is the Queen of Barda.

Verso. Text tells the story of Qaydafa giving advise to Iskandar. Text corresponds with M. Ramazani (1963) vol. 4, pp. 37-39, lines 876-921. Ramazani subtitles read, "Qaydafa gives counsel to Iskandar." Text corresponds with J. Mohl (1976), vol. 5, pp. 174-78, lines 882-927. Mohl subtitles read, "Keidafeh donne un conseil à Iskender," "Iskender se met en garde contre Theinousch."
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1974-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Bibliography
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. 14, fig. 8

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., ed. Mary McWilliams Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 218, cat. 65, ill.

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