Shirin Examines the Portrait of Khusraw

Shirin Examines the Portrait of Khusraw
(click image to zoom-in)
Miniatures, Gouache, 23.7x13.7 cm
Origin: Iran, 1431-1431, Timurid Dynasty

This is one of the 12 miniatures illustrating the poem Khusraw and Shirin 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 Khamsa was copied out in Herat by the calligrapher Mahmud for Sultan Shahrukh , son of the legendary Tamerlaine .

Khusraw and Shirin is the first poem in the literature of the Near and Middle East in which man's personality is shown in all its rich variety. The subject for this poem came from the chronicles of ancient Iran. Nizami was drawn by the image of Shirin, "beauteous of face and morals", who remained faithful to her beloved husband, the last Shah of pre-Islamic Iran, Khusraw II . By the 9th century there was a whole cycle of legends about Shirin and Khusraw.

On the orders of the then heir to the throne, Khusraw, the artist Shapur set off for Armenia, home of the beautiful Shirin. In a meadow where Shirin was walking with her friends he left a portrait of Khusraw. In this miniature the text relates how Shirin notices the portrait of Khusraw on a branch and asks her friends to pass it to her. "They gave her the drawing, the beauty leaned over it; time passed... the whole world became invisible to her." Shirin fell in love with Khusraw at first sight.

Shirin stands in the centre, wearing a crown, holding the large portrait of Khusraw in her hands. Behind her is a gaggle of surprised girls, their smartly dressed figures like large flowers on the bank of the stream. One of the girls tugs at Shirin's robe, seeking to distract her from her adoration of the handsome Khusraw. Meanwhile Shapur peeks out between the trees to see the effect his portrait is having on the beautiful girl.

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

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