• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7751

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    6 October 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 144

    BAHRAM GUR SLAYS THE DRAGON

    ATTRIBUTABLE TO SIYAVUSH, PROBABLY QAZVIN, DATED AH 973/1565 AD, THE TEXT WRITTEN BY MUHY, AH 975/1563 AD

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    BAHRAM GUR SLAYS THE DRAGON
    ATTRIBUTABLE TO SIYAVUSH, PROBABLY QAZVIN, DATED AH 973/1565 AD, THE TEXT WRITTEN BY MUHY, AH 975/1563 AD
    An illustration to the Shahnama of Firdawsi, gouache heightened with gold on paper, Bahram Gur, mounted on his horse draws his bow from the lower left hand corner of the composition as a fearsome dragon approaches from the right through a rocky landscape, a gazelle escapes in the lower right hand corner, six columns of nasta'liq above anD below with one title in larger gold nasta'liq, reverse with 25ll. of black nasta'liq arranged in 6 columns with one similar heading, mounted
    Miniature 7 7/8 x 6 3/8in. (19.8 x 16.3cm.) at largest; folio 13 3/8 x 8¾in. (33.8 x 22.3cm.)


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    This miniature is from a dated Shahnama manuscript copied by the scribe Muhyi. Two other miniatures from this manuscript have sold in these Rooms, 11 October 2005, lot 100-101. One of those was signed by the artist Siyavush, an artist accredited with nineteen paintings from the Shahnama made for Shah Isma'il II (1576-77). Indeed, stylistically this miniature very closely relates to the miniatures from the Shah Isma'il II manuscript - particularly in the figure of Bahram and in the treatment of the painting of the rocks. Knowing that Siyavush worked on the manuscript from which this comes, and given the strong stylistic similarities, it seems probable that Siyavush was also the artist responsible for the present miniature.

    A Georgian slave, Siyavush's talent was recognised by Shah Tahmasp, and he studied at the royal studios while still a child. He was said to be the pupil of Muzaffar 'Ali, Hasan 'Ali and even of Tahmasp himself (see B.W. Robinson, "Isma'il II's Copy of the Shahnama", Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, vol. 14,1-8). Robinson describes his style thus, full of "easy competence and such recognisable stylistic features as a certain uncluttered liveliness of composition [and] round, open-eyed faces".

    Miniatures from this period occupy an important position in the history of Persian painting, spanning the period between those of Shah Tahmasp and Shah 'Abbas I. Shah Isma'il II's brief reign of eighteen months was amongst the most bloody and disruptive of those of the Safavids. As well as being responsible for the murder of most of his family, he was neglectful of affairs of state. However, he did not neglect the arts, and most probably commissioned the Shahnama manuscript discussed above shortly after his succession. He quickly assembled an atelier of young artists in his capital of Qazvin, including Zayn al-Abidin, Sadiq Beg, 'Ali Ashgar, Naqdi, Murad, Mihrab, Burji and Siyavush.

    Further to those mentioned above, pages from the same manuscript were also sold at Sotheby's 14 October 1999, lot 44; 12 October 2000, lot 61; 3 May 2001, lot 50 and 30 April 2003, lot 30.

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    Provenance

    Sotheby's, 13 April 2000, lot 34