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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.36
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Iskandar Meets the Angel Israfil and Khizr Finds the Water of Life (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
1575-1590
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/143030
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
42.8 x 27.6 cm (16 7/8 x 10 7/8 in.)
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, 1990 or 1992], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1990 or 1992 - 2002), 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
2002.50.36
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
In his existential quests and search for the Water of Life, Iskandar went with his men to explore the western regions. Entering the Land of Darkness, the king asked a local leader and mystic, Khizr, to be their guide, but, taking a wrong turn, they became separated from him and had to continue on their own in the gloom. Alone, Khizr found the magical spring, whose waters he bathed in and drank. Meanwhile, Iskandar came to a mountain; at its summit was Israfil, the Angel of Death, holding a trumpet and awaiting God’s orders to blow it. Upon seeing Iskandar, the angel warned him to be less concerned for crown and throne, since the ruler himself would someday hear the trumpet call.
The painting depicts three separate occurrences in the story. An enormous Israfil, holding a seven-belled horn, dominates the upper left corner of the composition, dwarfing Iskandar, with whom the angel converses. Behind and below Iskandar, members of his army struggle through the rocky landscape, their torches lighting the winding route; they turn to one another and gesture with their hands, enlivening the composition. In the lower left corner, Khizr and a second man, Ilyas, have found the Water of Life. According to tradition, these two prophets never died; hence they are shown drinking from the spring of immortality while all others seek their way in the dark.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
100

Iskandar Meets the Angel Israfil and Khizr Finds the Water of Life
Recto: text and illustration
Verso: text, with title “Iskandar goes to the eastern lands”
Folio: 42.8 × 27.6 cm (16 7/8 × 10 7/8 in.)
2002.50.36

In his existential quests and search for the Water of Life, Iskandar went with his men to explore the western regions. Entering the Land of Darkness, the king asked a local leader and mystic, Khizr, to be their guide, but, taking a wrong turn, they became separated from him and had to continue on their own in the gloom. Alone, Khizr found the magical spring, whose waters he bathed in and drank. Meanwhile, Iskandar came to a mountain; at its summit was Israfil, the Angel of Death, holding a trumpet and awaiting God’s orders to blow it. Upon seeing Iskandar, the angel warned him to be less concerned for crown and throne, since the ruler himself would someday hear the trumpet call.

The painting depicts three separate occurrences in the story. An enormous Israfil, holding a seven-belled horn, dominates the upper left corner of the composition, dwarfing Iskandar, with whom the angel converses. Behind and below Iskandar, members of his army struggle through the rocky landscape, their torches lighting the winding route; they turn to one another and gesture with their hands, enlivening the composition. In the lower left corner, Khizr and a second man, Ilyas, have found the Water of Life. According to tradition, these two prophets never died; hence they are shown drinking from the spring of immortality while all others seek their way in the dark.

Mika M. Natif

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 122-123, ill.; p. 240, cat.100, ill.

Exhibition History

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

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