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Ilkhanid Illustration
Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama
Chapter 15 - Gushtasp (120 years).
Nushirvan Eating Food Brought by the Sons of Mahbud.

Tabriz, Persia, c.1335AD

A larger image of 'Nushirvan Eating Food Brought by the Sons of Mahbud'. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia, c.1335. Ilkhanid Illustration. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 52.20.2.

"Nushirvan Eating Food Brought by the Sons of Mahbud", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)
Author:Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Date: 1330s
Geography: Attributed to Iran, Tabriz
Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:P age: H. 20 3/4 in. (52.7 cm) W. 15 1/8 in. (38.4 cm) Painting: H. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm) W. 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm) Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Classification: Codices
Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Accession Number: 52.20.2
Provenance: Demotte, Inc., New York (by 1926); Dikran G. Kelekian, New York (until d. 1951; his estate, New York, 1951–52; sold to MMA)

This page once formed part of a now-dispersed manuscript known as the Great Mongol Shahnama, believed to have been produced in the 1330s at Tabriz. A large-scale work, it would have once contained nearly 300 folios with almost 200 paintings. The subject of this beautifully painted folio is unclear as its imagery does not relate directly to its surrounding text, but it likely represents the king Nushirvan dining.

Catalogue Entry
After Bahram Gur's peaceful death, the Shahnama continues with the history of his descendants, dwelling at length on episodes in the reign of Nushirvan the Just. Mahbud, one of Nushirvan's paladins, was entrusted with the daily duty of preparing the royal meals, which were cooked by Mahbud's wife and brought to the palace by his two sons. Mahbud's privileged position was the cause of much envy, and for none more than Zuran, an evil chamberlain, who conspired with a sorcerer to remove him. His sons were tricked into uncovering the tray of food on the pretext of checking it for freshness, at which point the sorcerer rendered the food poisonous by means of the evil eye. As Nushirvan sat to eat his meal, Zuran warned him that it might be poisoned and suggested that Mahbud' sons taste it first. The two youths immediately succumbed. Angered by this apparent treachery, Nushirvan ordered Mahbud and his wife to be executed, and Zuran and the sorcerer became the king's most trusted advisers. Sometime later, however, Nushirvan uncovered the plot and had Zuran hanged.

The painting is unusual in that its subject is not easily identifiable.[1] As Grabar and Blair have observed, the surrounding text deals with the construction of the gallows for Zuran, which is not depicted. The composition is divided into two architectural settings. On the right, behind two armed guards, is a palace facade; a young woman looks down from an upper story. On the left a crowned couple is seated in an interior. The man, who raises a goblet, must represent Nushirvan and the woman his queen, though the latter does not figure in the story.

[Komaroff and Carboni 2002]
1. Grabar, Oleg and Sheila Blair. Epic Images and Contemporary History: The Illustrations of the Great Mongol Shahnama. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, pp. 168–69, no. 56.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 52.20.2

New York , Metropolitan Museum of Art
Title of Work: Shahnama (Great Mongol)
Manuscript: 33.70, 52.20.2
Accession Number: 52.20.2
Chapter 41 - Kisra Anushirvan (48 years)
Scene: Anushirvan executes Zarvan and the Jew
English Title: Nushirvan Eating the Food Brought by the Sons of Mahbud
Dimensions (h x w): 210 x 250 mm
Reconstructed Folio: 231v
Gregorian Date: 1350 (circa)
School: Tabriz
Source: Shahnama Project

Previous: f. 230v: 'Anushirvan's seventh majlis for Buzurjmihr. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia, c.1335. Ilkhanid Illustration. Freer Gallery of Art F1942.2.
Next: f. 233v: 'Anushirvan dictates an answer to the Khaqan's letter'. Great Mongol (Demotte) Shahnama. Tabriz, Persia. Ilkhanid. The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Per 111.7.
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