Unique figural works such as this by Parviz Tanavoli from the early 1970s are exceedingly rare. This is the only one to have appeared at so far at auction.
Farhad the Mountain Carver is a favourite subject of Tanavoli. As the only sculptor referred to in classic 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 Ferdousi, Khosrow is described as a passionate prince who wins the hand of Shirin after much effort. Ferdousi 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. Upon hearing this Khosrow sent an old woman to misinform Farhad that Shirin was dead, whereupon the sculptor killed himself with his pickaxe.