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No. 3    The court of Kiyumars


Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Safavid: Qazvin or Mashhad, c.1580

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 269, fol. 19r 


Kiyumars, the first man in the Avesta, the sacred scripture of Zoroastrianism composed c.1000 BC, is also the first king in the Shahnameh, ruling over the world. During his reign humankind lived close to the wild animals, but also began to hunt and domesticate them. Kiyumars, whose story parallels the biblical account of Adam and Eve, is shown here enthroned on a lion skin. He is surrounded by courtiers in snow leopard hides and by servants bringing golden dishes, an anachronistic touch. The manuscript must have reached India by the late sixteenth century, as it bears the imprint of the seal of the Qotb Shahi ruler of Golconda in the Deccan, Mohammad Qoli b. Ebrahim (r. 1580–1611). It was presented to the East India Company in 1806.



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