|Washington, D.C., Freer Gallery of Art
Manuscript: F1930.89-91, 1931.21
Accession Number: F1930.90
Dimensions (h x w): 57 x 125 mm
Title of Work: Shahnama (First Small)
Reconstructed Folio: 056r
Gregorian Date: 1300 (circa)
Source: Freer Gallery of Art
Although the arts of the book in Iran enjoyed great prestige prior to the Mongol invasion of the mid-thirteenth century, the earliest extant illustrated manuscripts date from the reign of the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256-1336). Among this group are several copies of the Shahnama (Book of kings), the Persian national epic. Composed in the year 1010 by the poet Firdawsi, the Shahnama recounts the stories of legendary and historical kings and heroes. Its colourful combination of fact and fantasy has meant that it is the most frequently illustrated text in Iran. The earliest known copies are referred to as the first and second "small" Shahnama, respectively.
This folio depicts a scene from the story of Siyavush, the son of King Kay-Kavus. According to Firdawsi, when Siyavush rejects the advances of Sudaba, his stepmother, she approaches her husband, who was also Siyavush's father, King Kay-Kavus, "wailing aloud and weeping abundant terars," accusing Siyavush of improper behavior. Although "miniaturized," the illustration of this episode from the first small Shahnama is highly animated and expressive.