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Oldest Shahnameh Picture Depicted on a Tile Piece


News Category:

Islamic Period - Cultural

 24 February 2004



The Persian epic Shahnameh is believed to have been completed by the legendary poet Master Ferdowsi in 10th century. But it took some two centuries before the first paintings of the epic were drawn.

A piece of an octagonal tile, currently held in the fine arts museum in Boston, could be the oldest picture made on the stories of the epic. It depicts a scene from Shahnameh above which reads a tablet "leaving the Forud fortress by Iranians."

Painter and painting expert Aydin Aqdashlu maintains it is the oldest surviving picture from the Shahnameh.

"The first noted Shahnameh is the Florence Shahnameh, written in 1217. Given that Ferdowsi finished his epic in 1010/11, Florence is the first handwritten edition of Shahnameh without any pictures," he remarked.

Aqdashlu noted the tile piece in Boston was highly likely to be made in the early 13th century and no other picture has been found to predate it.

Yet he is on the belief that during the intervening two hundred years paintings have been made of Shahnameh none of which has survived so far.

Ferdowsi was born in 329 or 330 in Tous near Mashhad in northeastern Iran. There is little information regarding his life. Judging on his poetry, experts speculate he died in 1010.

Shahnameh is lengthy, 60,000 line epic which includes three mythological, heroic and historical periods. The mythological period includes the reign of Kayoumars until Fereydun. The second period covers uprising of Kaveh until death of Rostam and the third period continues the story from the late Kian reign.



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