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Folio from a Khusraw u Shirin by Nizami (d.1209); recto: The sculptor Farhad brought before Shirin; verso: text
early 15th century

Timurid period

Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H: 27.3 W: 16.5 cm
Tabriz, Iran

Purchase F1931.34

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In 1370, the Turco-Mongol warlord Timur (also known as Tamerlane in the West) conquered much of present-day Iraq, Iran, and Central Asia and established the Timurid dynasty. His descendants may have lacked Timur's military prowess, but they were among the most active patrons of architecture and the arts of the book, which reached unprecedented levels of sophistication during the fifteenth century.

Nizami's Khamsa (Quintet), one of Iran's literary masterpieces, was particularly favored during the Timurid period. This folio is from the second poem, known as Khusraw and Shirin and is devoted to the romance between the last Sasanian king, Khusraw II (reigned 590–628), known as Parviz (the Victorious), and Shirin, the beautiful and independent-minded Armenian princess. It depicts the first encounter between Shirin and the third central character of Nizami's text, the sculptor Farhad, who also falls desperately in love with the Armenian princess. Intimate in scale, the painting's meticulously rendered, stagelike interior and jewel-like palette are characteristic of early Timurid aesthetic refinement.