The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp I

Isfandiyar’s Fifth Ordeal; He Must Slay the Simurgh


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Miniature from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shahnama. “Isfandiyar’s Fifth Ordeal; He Must Slay the Simurgh”
Iran, Tabriz; between 1520 and 1535
Miniature: 26.5 × 23 cm

One of the most magnificent Persian manuscripts ever produced is undoubtedly the copy of the Book of Kings that was made for the Safavid shahs Ismail I and Tahmasp. It contained 258 paintings, and experts believe that they can identify the work of 15 of the period’s best artists, although only two of the paintings are signed. The result is a sublime synthesis of Turkmen and Timurid painting.

In order to slay the fearful Simurgh, the hero Isfandiyar makes a carriage fitted with blades. After the bird has wounded itself in repeated attacks, the Persian hero jumps out and slays his colorful opponent.

Inv. no. 32/1988
Source: The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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