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.