No. 76     Key Khosrow crosses the Sea of Zareh

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Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Safavid: Shiraz, c.1580
Scribe: Hedayat-Allah al-Shirazi

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

London, British Library, MS I. O. Islamic 741, vol. I, fol. 326r


In pursuit of the fleeing Afrasiyab, Key Khosrow came to the mighty Sea of Zareh. A large inland body of water in the Shahnameh, the Sea of Zareh is now a marshy border area between Iran and Afghanistan, fed in part by the Helmand River. With provisions for a year, Key Khosrow set sail towards Afrasiyab’s stronghold of Gang Dezh. He encountered strange sea creatures during the seven-month voyage. The scale of this manuscript allowed the artist generous space for a lavish composition. The ship and its dinghy, rendered with some foreshortening, are shown with considerable nautical detail. The artist may have used an European prototype, perhaps an etching.


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