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"Big Head" Shahnameh, Gilan, 1494, Turkman dynasty (Aqqoyunlu), patronised by Sultan 'Ali Mirza

Detached manuscript page from the epic 'Big-Head Shahnameh' of Firdausi. Image depicts Kay Khusrau seated on the throne, while Fariburz (wearing a white turban with feather) kneels to the right. Chained prisoners stand in the left bottom corner and seated men to the right. Sixteen men appear in total. Text appears directly above the image. Painted in opaque watercolour and black ink on paper.

Curator's comments

After taking the fortress of Bahman and winning the Iranian throne, Kay Khusrau received his rival Fariburz, depicted here kneeling at the right of his throne. This painting comes from a Shahnameh produced for Sultan Ali Mirza, ruler of the Caspian province of Gilan.

King Kay Kavus promised the throne to the one of two rivals, Kay Khusrau and Fariburz, who could successfully storm the fortress of Bahman. With divine intervention the castle wall collapsed and Kay Khusrau won the crown. Here Fariburz kneels before Kay Khusrau while prisoners from the fortress parade before them.

Fariburz and Kay Khusrau were rivals for the Iranian throne. To determine who would prevail, King Kay Kavus promised the throne to the one who could storm the enemy fortress of Bahman. Eventually with divine intervention the castle wall collapsed, and Kay Khusrau won the crown.

The manuscript was commissioned by the Sultan Ali Mirza of Gilan, and was produced in two volumes, of which one, is currently in Istanbul.


Acquisition date: 1992

Acquisition name: Purchased from Sotheby's (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes: Purchased from Sotheby's, 29/30th April, 1992, lot 297.

2010-2011 Sep-Jan, Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum, 'Epic of the Persian Kings'

British Museum







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