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No. 44 Ferdowsi encounters the court poets of Ghazni

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No. 44 Ferdowsi encounters the court poets of Ghazni

Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Timurid: Herat, c.1444
Patron: Mohammad Juki b. Shah Rokh
Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper
London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian MS 239, fol. 7r

As in No. 1, we see Ferdowsi, the figure closest to the river, in the garden of Soltan Mahmud and the court poets of Ghazni who are testing his skills. Their faces betray comic alarm, while Ferdowsi’s gesture suggests exposition tempered by courtesy. The spaces left blank in the text above the picture were intended for the names of the court poets written in ornamental forms. The artist has created a landscape that is exceptionally lyrical, perhaps a reference to the entrance to the world of poetry rather than the gardens of Ghazni.

Together with Nos. 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54 and 55, this illustration belonged to a copy of the Shahnameh made for Mohammad Juki b. Shah Rokh, brother of Ebrahim Soltan (the patron of Nos. 33, 34, 35, 36, 38 and 39). Mohammad Juki died before the manuscript was completed. In the early sixteenth century, it came into the possession of a later Timurid ruler, Babur, who took it to India when he founded the Mughal dynasty there.

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