Lot 66

Handspun and handwoven cotton, hand drawn and painted, natural dyes
22.25 x 40.75 in (57 x 104 cm)


This elegantly executed pictorial rendering of the Shah Nama is based on an ancient Pahlavi work known as Xwadaynamag - the Book of Kings. The Shah Nama was compiled by Zoroastrian historians and finalised by the Persian poet Firdausi; though Firdausi is mentioned as the sole author of the work.
Written in the 10th century, the Shah Nama is the world's longest national epic with 60,000 couplets. It narrates the mythical and historical past of Iran beginning with the creation of the world going through to the Islamic conquest of Persia by the Arabs in the 7th century. It is a mix of myth and history, with the characters taking on heroic adventures filled with superhuman heroes, magical creatures, heartwrenching love stories and centuries-long battles.

The Shah Nama was often recited in public - mainly in the chai-khanas or tea houses, and at public gatherings by itinerant bards and storytellers. These recitations were most popular in the zurkhane, or gymnasiums of the Mithraeum, where they were held in reverence. The gymnasiums were frequented by the pahlavans, the strongmen of Iran who trained with maces and clubs. Their meditative exercises were known to have spiritual leanings, with a musician playing the drum and reciting verses recounting the heroic deeds of Rustam, a pivotal character in the Shah Nama. Private recitations of the Shah Nama were also held by the more erudite of Iranian society. The present lot could have served as a backdrop for the recitation of the Shah Nama at any one of these occasions.

Made from two pieces, the central figure is a female, sitting within a niche in an architectural setting surrounded by flowering blossoms. A Persian inscription beside her reads as firangi bano (foreign woman), perhaps alluding to her identity. She is surrounded by 24 roundels, each bearing faces of the various Persian kings mentioned in the text of the Shah Nama. Highly unusual to have a female figure dominating a scene essentially associated with the History of Heroes, this piece is certainly one of a kind.

Jasleen Dhamija acquired this rare piece in Isfahan in 1971 from a master kalamkar. It had been in his family for years where it was considered an heirloom.

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  Lot 66 of 82  

19-20 OCTOBER 2016

Rs 7,00,000 - 9,00,000
$10,610 - 13,640



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