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Ilkhanid Illustration
Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama
Chapter 20 - Iskandar (14 years).
Iskandar and the talking tree.

Tabriz, Persia, c.1335AD

A larger image of 'Iskandar and the talking tree'. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia, c.1335. Ilkhanid Illustration. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, F1935.23.

Folio from a Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi (died 1020); recto: Iskandar (Alexander) and the talking tree; verso: text
HISTORICAL PERIOD: Il-Khanid dynasty, Mongol period, ca.1330
MEDIUM: Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
DIMENSIONS: H x W: 40.8 x 30.1 cm (16 1/16 x 11 7/8 in)
GEOGRAPHY: Iran, Tabriz
CREDIT LINE: Purchase Charles Lang Freer Endowment

Hagop Kevorkian 1872 - 1962
Georges Demotte 1877 - 1923

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black naskh script, titles in gold naskh outlined in black; recto: illustration and text, Iskandar and the talking tree, six columns, 21 lines; verso: text unrelated to the recto, Jahan takes Afrasiyab's message to Kay Khusraw, six columns, 31 lines; one of a group of 16 folios.

The Shahnama (Book of Kings) was composed in the year 1010 by the poet Firdawsi, and its lively narrative and masterful combination of fact and fantasy provide ample opportunity for visual representation, and the Shahnama remains the most frequently illustrated Persian text. In addition, it also served as an ideal vehicle for the expression of royal authority and legitimacy, and patronage of the epic became almost a royal duty.

Among the most remarkable, now dispersed, illustrated copies of the Shahnama is one commissioned by the Mongol Ilkhanid rulers of Iran (reigned 1256-1335), which included numerous illustrations of the story of Iskandar, also known as Alexander the Great (died 323). Iskandar and the Talking Tree, one of the finest paintings from the Ilkhanid Shahnama, depicts the king's arrival at the end of the world, where he encounters a tree with male and female heads. The talking tree, shown here with both human and animal heads, warns the king of his imminent death in a foreign land. Like much of Ilkhanid art, the painting draws on Chinese pictorial elements, such as the surging rocks and vegetation, to create an unusual and evocative composition.
Source: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, F1935.23

Washington, D.C., Freer Gallery of Art
Title of Work: Shahnama (Great Mongol)
Manuscript: F1935.23 - F1942.2
Accession Number: F1935.23
Chapter 20 - Iskandar (14 years)
Scene: Iskandar and the talking tree
Dimensions (h x w): 260 x 290 mm
Format: Rectangular within borders
Reconstructed Folio: 175v
Gregorian Date: 1335 (circa)
School: Tabriz
Source: Shahnama Project

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