People Admire Khavarnak

People Admire Khavarnak
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Miniatures, Gouache, 23.7x13.7 cm
Origin: Iran, 1431-1431, Timurid Dynasty

This is one of the 9 miniatures illustrating the poem Haft Paikar in the Hermitage's famous Persian manuscript of the Khamsa, an anthology of five poems by the 12th-century poet Nizami, who lived on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan. In 1431 this manuscript of the Khamsawas copied out in Herat by the calligrapher Mahmud for Sultan Shahrukh , son of the legendary Tamerlaine .

The poem relates how Bahram Gur, Shah of Iran, married the daughters of the padishahs of seven lands. A fortress, Khavarnak, was built specially, with pavilions for each of the princesses. The colour of each of the pavilions accorded with a particular day of the week and with the planets protecting that day. Bahram Gur visited each of the seven pavilions in turn, where each of the princesses told him a magical story of love, symbolizing the passing of man's spirit through seven stages on the mystical path to God. Each tale ends with praise of the relative colour.

The lines of text set into this miniature tell how "hundreds of thousands of painters, architects and wise men came to see the best of palaces". One of the cupolas of Khavarnak changed colour thrice over the day and "he who saw could not restrain his excitement and placed his foot upon the step". Coloured cupolas fill the greater part of the miniature, with a group of idlers standing to bottom right, two of them pointing at the fortress while a third puts his finger to his mouth in amazement. Others discuss the magnificent new fortress with excitement.

Album: The Khamsa by Nizami
Source of entry: First Branch of the State Hermitage Museum, 1924
School: Herat
Theme: Literature

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