• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7802

    International Modern and Contemporary Art

    29 April 2009, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

  • Lot 33

    Parviz Tanavoli (Iranian, b. 1937)

    The lovers (Shirin and Farhad)

    Price Realised  


    Parviz Tanavoli (Iranian, b. 1937)
    The lovers (Shirin and Farhad)
    26½ x 26½in. (68 x 68cm.)
    Executed circa early 1960s

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    Often in his work Parviz Tanavoli has returned to the theme of Farhad the Mountain Carver. The only sculptor mentioned in Persian poetry, Tanavoli looks upon Farhad as his role model.
    The story of Farhad and Shirin is an ancient Persian love story. Several variations exist, but essentially it relates to three figures, Farhad the stone-cutter, Shirin, an Armenian princess, and Khosrow Parviz, one of the greatest of the Sassanian kings of Iran prior to Islamic conquest. In the Shahnama of Ferdausi, Khosrow is described as a passionate prince who wins the hand of Shirin after much effort. Firdausi does not mention Farhad. However, parallel to his version, a folk story developed, centred around a sculptor called Farhad, who was also in love with Shirin whilst Khosrow Parviz was still wooing her, and engineered a stream of milk for her. Khosrow invited his rival to his court, questioned him and then promised to give him Shirin if he removed the Behistun Mountain, as it blocked a passage to the palace.
    Although seeming a Sisyphus-like task, in a passionate frenzy Farhad actually removed the mountain with his pickaxe. Hearing this, Khosrow sent an old woman to misinform Farhad that Shirin was dead, whereupon the sculptor killed himself with his pickaxe.

    A similar example is illustrated on p.119 of David Galloway, Parviz Tanavoli: Sculptor, Writer & Collector, Tehran, 2000.

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    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from an American private collector