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Ilkhanid Illustration
Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama
Chapter 35 - Bahram Gur (63 years). Bahram Gur kills a wolf in India.
Tabriz, Persia, c.1330-1340AD


A larger image of 'Bahram Gur kills a wolf in India'. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia, c.1330-1340. Ilkhanid Illustration. Harvard Art Museums 1960.190.


Identification and Creation
Object Number: 1960.190
Title: Bahram Gur Fights the Horned Wolf (painting, verso; text, recto), illustrated folio from a manuscript of the Great Ilkhanid Shahnama (Book of Kings)
Series/Book Title: Shahnama
Classification: Manuscripts
Work Type: manuscript folio
Date: c. 1330-1340
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Tabriz
Period: Ilkhanid period
Culture: Persian
Physical Descriptions
Medium: Ink, colors, gold, and silver on paper
Dimensions: 41.5 x 30 cm (16 5/16 x 11 13/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line: Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Accession Year: 1960

The greatest epic poem in Persian, the Shahnama was written by Firdawsi around 1010 and tells the story of the pre-Islamic kings and heroes of Iran. Although Shahnama episodes are depicted in ceramics made in Iran before the Mongol invasions of the early 1200s, illustrated manuscripts of this text are known only from the fourteenth century onward.

This folio is from a celebrated copy of the text known as the Great Ilkhanid Shahnama, one of the most complex masterpieces of Persian art. Because of its lavish production, it is assumed to have been commissioned by a high-ranking member of the Ilkhanid court and produced at the court scriptorium. The fifty-seven surviving illustrations reflect the intense interest in historical chronicles and the experimental approach to painting of the Ilkhanid period (1256Ė1335). The eclectic paintings reveal the cosmopolitanism of the Ilkhanid court in Tabriz, which teemed with merchants, missionaries, and diplomats from as far away as Europe and China. Here the Iranian king Bahram Gur wears a robe made of European fabric to slay a fearsome horned wolf in a setting marked by the conventions of Chinese landscape painting.
Source: Harvard Art Museums



58     Fig. 182
Bahram Gur Fighting a Wolf
Image: 21 x 29 cm (8¼, x 11⅜ in.)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass, Bequest of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
(1960.190)

Disguised as an envoy of the shah of Iran, Bahram Gur made his way to the court of Hind, ruled over by an unjust king, Shangul, to observe the kingdom and its troops. One evening after a sumptuous banquet, Bahram Gur mistakenly displayed his prowess and roused the suspicions of the king, who tried to trick Bahram into revealing his identity. When this ruse failed, Shangul decided to dispatch the hero by sending him to slay a fearsome horned wolf. Bahram Gur pierced the wolf with arrows and cut off its head with his sword.
Unlike other scenes of Bahram Gurís hunting triumphs, this miniature does not show him in the act of slaying his prey.1
    Instead, a relaxed, confident Bahram Gur is depicted after the deed, with mace in hand, a quiver full of arrows, and a sheathed sword. The still-writhing corpse of the wolf figures prominently in the foreground, a feature that is not specifically mentioned in the text.

1. Grabar and Blair 1980, pp. 162-63, no. 53; Simpson 1980, pp. 28-29, no.6.
Source: p.257, The Legacy of Genghis Khan Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353



Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums
Title of Work: Shahnama (Great Mongol)
Manuscript: 1919.130-1960.190
Accession Number: 1960.190
Chapter 35b - Bahram Gur (2)
Scene: Bahram Gur kills a wolf in India
Dimensions (h x w): 210 x 290 mm
Format: Rectangular within borders
Reconstructed Folio: 214v
Gregorian Date: 1335 (circa)
School: Tabriz
Source: Shahnama Project

Previous: f. 212r: 'Bahram Gur appoints Narsi Viceroy of Khurasan', Great Mongol (Demotte) Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1335 - Ilkhanid Soldiers. Khalili Collection, MSS 994.
Next: f. 229v: 'Anushirvan's fourth majlis for Buzurjmihr'. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia. Ilkhanid Illustration. Cleveland Museum of Art 1959.330.
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