from the Great Mongol Shahnama – 1

Bahram Gur Fighting a Wolf, from a page of the Great Mongol Shahnama (Book of Kings), Iran, 1330s. Ink, paint and gold on paper.

In Mongol Iran, book art exploded, and became the major art: patronage changed and this was the call, answered with a “redeployment of artistic energies”.

The Great Mongol Shahnama is an unfinished royal copy of the Persian epic. Big in scale, with a work space of 16×12 inches on the page, and 200 paintings intended, of which 57 survive. Nothing this ambitious had been tried. “Since Shahnama iconography was… in its infancy, the painters had no models for scores of the projected images… The… pressure to be innovative propelled the painters into unfamiliar territory in search of fresh inspiration.”

More to come on this spectacular book, and others, and how under the Mongols Chinese art met Persian. But here’s a sample: innovative? I believe him – those trees, that horse. Click to enlarge.

Quotes from ‘The Arts of the Book in Ilkhanid Iran’ by Robert Hillenbrand in The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, editors Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002.

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