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Folio from the Great Mongol Shahnama: Ardashir Battles Bahman, Son of Ardavan, ca. 1335

  • Islamic, Iranian

Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

  • Image: 6 3/4 × 11 5/8 inches (17.1 × 29.5 cm) Sheet: 23 1/4 × 15 13/16 inches (59.1 × 40.2 cm) Page (Page within sheet): 16 1/16 × 11 5/8 inches (40.8 × 29.5 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Edsel B. Ford Fund


The Shahnama, The Book of Kings, was written in the eleventh century by the Persian poet Firdausi. It extols the valor of the ancient kings of Iran. The richly colored painting here depicts the historic hero Ardashir (on the right) as he battles Bahman (on the left), the son of his enemy, for the crown of Persia. This copy of the Shahnama was probably commissioned between 1335 and 1336 by the Vizier (prime minister) Ghiyath al-Din in the Mongol capital city of Tabriz. Persian painting was born there, with the development of a Mongol style influenced by the Baghdad school and Chinese art. The Persian aesthetic integrates a sense of drama with an expanded use of color.

(Georges J. Demotte [1877-1923], Paris, France). (Dikran G. Kelekian [1868-1951], New York, New York, USA)

1935-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Schulz, P. W. Die Persische-Islamische Miniaturmakerei. Leipzig: K. W. Hiersemann, 1914, vol. 2, pl. 20. Bulletin of the DIA 15, no. 1 (1935): p. 2, (ill.) p. 1. Exhibition of Persian Art. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Toledo, 1935, no. 247. Exhibition of Persian Miniature. Exh. cat., DIA. Detroit, March 20-April 15, 1935. Bulletin of the DIA 14, no. 7 (1935): p. 98. Exhibition of Islamic Art. Exh. cat., M. A. DeYoung Memorial Museum. San Francisco, 1937, no. 39, (ill.). Exhibition of Persian Art. Exh. cat., Iranian Institute. New York, 1940, p. 247. Islamic and Indian Miniature Paintings and Manuscripts. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, December 15, 1955-February 19, 1956. Persian Art. Exh. cat. Ann Arbor, April 9-May 17, 1959, p. 43, no. 145. Stchoukine, I. "Les Peintures du Shah-nameh Demotte," Arts Asiatiques, vol. 5 (1958): pp. 83-96. Miniature Islamiche del XIII al XIX Secolo. Venice, 1962, no. 10. Lowe Art Center, Syracuse University, New York, April 1967, no 20. Travis, J. B. "The Battle of Ardavan and Ardashir from the Demotte Shah-nameh," Art Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 1 (1968): pp. 63-75, (ill.) p. 67. The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Exh. cat., Pierpont Morgan Library. New York, November 6, 1968-January 4, 1969, no. 9, (ill.). DIA Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 65. Elgood, R., ed. Islamic Arms and Armour. London, 1979, p. 37, (fig. 41). Grabar, O. and S. Blair. Epic Images and Contemporary History; The Illustrations of the Great Mongol Shahnama. Chicago, 1980, p. 139 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, p. 40-41 (ill.). A Visitors Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts, ed. Julia P. Henshaw. Detroit, 1995, p. 126 (ill.). Grabar, Oleg. Mostly Miniatures: An Introduction to Persian Painting. Princeton, Oxford, 1999, p. 103, (fig. 52 ill.). Komaroff, Linda, and Stefano Carboni, eds. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courty Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, New Haven and London, 2002, p. 155, p. 157 (ill.), pp. 256, 257, discussed. Hillenbrand, Robert. The Great Mongol Shahnama. London and Washington D.C., 2022, pp. 68-70, (fig. 2.15).

Islamic, Iranian, Folio from the Great Mongol Shahnama: Ardashir Battles Bahman, Son of Ardavan, ca. 1335, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Edsel B. Ford Fund, 35.54.