The 'Iyar-e Danesh or 'Criterion of Knowledge', was a second Persian translation of the Sanskrit Panctantra fables. The Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1561-1605 AD), ordered his trusted biographer Abu'l-Fazl to produce a new translation of the text looking at Arabic, Persian and Indian sources. Akbar desired a less florid version than the previous Persian translation known as the Anvar-e Soheyli, in order to instruct his sons in the arts of kingship. Abu'l-Fazl completed the new translation in 1588. It appears that only a very few illustrated copies of the new translation by Abu'l-Fazl were produced. The older Persian version- the Anvar-e Soheyli was being produced in numbers again from the early 17th century onwards.
The miniature on the recto side illustrates a golden turbanned king on horseback who has just realised with regret that he has mistakenly killed a sage out cutting wood, who he miss-took for a bear. The miniature on the verso side illustrates the following scene from the same story with the King consulting with his courtiers about the tragic consequences of his hunting trip. These miniatures come from the third story of the 12th chapter of the 'Iyar -e Danesh.
This folio is remarkable for its narrative illustration in that it depicts two consecutive scenes from the same story on two sides of a single folio. Linda Leach in her seminal study of the most celebrated copy of the 'Iyar -e Danesh held in the Chester Beatty Library comments that it contains a number of illustrations for each tale rather than a simple main episode which is illustrated per story, (Linda York Leach, Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995, pp. 74-75). The nearly complete copy of the above mentioned 'Iyar -i danesh in the Chester Beatty is lacking two miniatures from this same story of the King and the Sage as well as other leaves, (Leach, op.cit., p. 104). The dimensions of our miniatures and those of the Chester Beatty copy are almost identical which indicates that our folio is actually one of the dispersed folios originally from the Chester Beatty manuscript.
Many of the Chester Beatty miniatures from the 'Iyar -e Danesh have been attributed to imperial court painters such as Dharm Das (see lot 3 for a painting by him).