Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 64

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At A Glance

  • Period

    1518 (924 A.H.)
  • Geography

    Shiraz, Iran
  • Material

    Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
  • Dimension

    H x W (overall): 29 x 19.4 cm (11 7/16 x 7 5/8 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Calligrapher

    Na'im al-Din Ahmad
  • Description

    Manuscript; Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; Persian in black nasta'liq script; headings in blue; 684 folios with one double-page frontispiece (fols. 1 verso, 2 recto), 2 sarlawhs (fols.17 verso, 348 verso), one dated colophon (684 recto), 63 paintings on fols. 21 recto, 32 verso, 40 verso, 46 recto, 51 verso, 69 verso, 72 verso, 81 recto, 88 recto, 96 verso, 99 verso, 109 verso, 128 verso, 139 recto, 150 verso, 162 verso, 169 verso, 174 recto, 191 verso, 203 recto, 209 verso, 222 verso, 243 verso, 247 recto, 253 verso, 267 recto, 280 verso, 291 recto, 298 recto, 302 verso, 315 recto, 324 verso, 337 verso, 343 verso, 349 verso, 359 verso, 380 verso, 390 recto, 396 verso, 410 verso, 417 recto, 425 recto, 432 recto, 441 verso, 445 recto, 454 verso, 462 recto, 470 recto, 488 verso, 495 verso, 502 recto, 512 recto, 526 verso, 550 recto, 576 verso, 598 verso, 604 recto, 616 verso, 621 verso, 640 verso, 644 recto, 658 recto, 669 verso); illegible seals (fols.1 verso, 2 recto); standard page: four columns, 19 lines of text; one of a group of two: the binding (S1986.58.2) and the manuscript (S1986.58.1) are accessioned separately.
    Binding: The manuscript is bound in red leather over paper pasteboards with gold-painted exterior covers and doublures of mottled yellow paper. The envelop flap has a surface and border identical to that on the upper and lower covers.
  • Inscriptions

    Fol. 684 recto: "by divine guidance of God, the Lord of mercy, inspiring in excellence, greatness, liberality and benevolence. By the hand of this poor slave of God, Na'im al-Din Ahmad b. Mun'im al-Din al-Awhadi al-Husayni. In the holy month of Muharram in the year [A.H.] nine hundred and twenty-four [A.D. January 1518]."
    Later inscriptions:
    Inside front cover: written in pencil, “pasxx”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “Est D. aspxx”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil and circled “DemV aspxx”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “63 miniatures”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “H-V- pasxx”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “63 miniatures”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “3 pages ornementées”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “daté 923 Heg (? 1508)”
    Inside front cover: written in pencil “daté 923 Heg (? 1508)”
  • Provenance

    ?-no later than 1923
    Likely Georges Demotte (1877-1923), method of acquisition unknown [1]
    By 1923-1942
    Henri Vever (1854-1942), mode of acquisition unknown[2]
    Jeanne Louise Monthiers (1861-1947), bequest of Henri Vever [3]
    Francois Mautin (1907-2003), bequest of Jeanne Louise Monthiers and Henri Vever [4]
    From 1986
    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased from Francois Mautin [5]
    [1] See inscription on the interior of the manuscript's over, "Est. D. aspxx." Vever used "Est. D" as shorthand for "Estimation by Georges Demotte." Georges Demotte was a collector and dealer of Islamic and medieval European art. He had galleries in Paris and New York City.
    An accomplished French jeweler and collector, Henri Vever (1854-1942) amassed a large and impressive collection of works of art during his lifetime. His holdings in Japanese prints and Islamic arts of the books, especially from Iran and India, were among the most important assembled in the early twentieth century. This work was in Vever's collection at the time of his death in 1942. Vever purchased this manuscript before Demotte's death in 1923.
    [3] Upon Henri Vever's death on September 25, 1942, his wife, Jeanne Louise Monthiers inherited this work. See exhibits F and G of Agreement of Purchase and Sale of the Henri Vever Collection, January 9, 1986, copy in object file.
    [4] Upon the death of Jeanne Louise Monthiers, as stipulated in the will of Henri Vever, the family's assets were divided evenly between his two grandchildren. His only grandson, Francois Mautin inherited the collection known as "The Henri Vever Collection of Oriental Art and Manuscripts Including Persian and Indian Art and Manuscripts." This object is part of that collection. See exhibits F and G as cited in note 3.
    [5] The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased the collection from Francois Mautin on January 9, 1986. See purchase agreement, copy in object file.
    Research completed June 16, 2022
  • Collection

    Arthur M. Sackler Collection
  • Exhibition History

    The Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings (October 23, 2010 to April 17, 2011)
    Permanent Gallery Exhibition, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, 11/2006-11/2009 (November 2006 to November 2009)
    Queensland Art Gallery permanent gallery (November, 2006 to November, 2009)
    Paintings from Shiraz (December 24, 1994 to August 27, 1995)
    The Art of Painting a Story: Narrative Images from Iran (December 22, 1991 to May 10, 1992)
    A Jeweler's Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection (November 20, 1988 to April 30, 1989)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Francois Mautin (1907-2003)
    Jeanne Louise Monthiers (1861-1947)
    Henri Vever (1854-1942)
    Georges Demotte (1877-1923)
  • Origin

    Shiraz, Iran
  • Credit Line

    Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

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