The Morgan Online Exhibitions
Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan
115 of 124
Bahrām Gūr and His Court
Niẓāmī Ganjavī (ca. 1141–1209), Khamsa (Quintet), in Persian. Probably Mughal Ahmedabad, ca. 1618, written by Mullā Fatḥ Muḥammad.
111 x 112 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910.; MS M.445, fol. 200.
This episode appears in the Haft Paikar (Seven Princesses), the last part (1197) of the Persian poet Niẓāmī's Khamsa (Quintet). It is essentially a romanticized biography of Bahrām Gūr, a Persian king (r. 421–438) and a renowned hunter and lover.
In the miniature, Bahrām Gūr is enthroned, surrounded by sixteen members of his court. Some of them offer gifts in bowls and two hold fly whisks. There is also a military band, as well as a groom with two horses.
The Persians loved their poetry and their poets, though the Qur˒an warned against believing their words (sura 69.41) and "those straying in evil who follow them" (sura 26.224). While Arabic was the first language of Islam and the language of the Qur˒an, Persian was favored by poets. Even Firdausī's (940–1020) celebrated Shāhnāma (Book of Kings), the national epic of Persian, was written in verse—some 50,000 couplets! Rūmī (1207–1273), the best known of the Sufi poets, put poetry in perspective when he wrote, "A hundred thousand books of poetry existed / Before the word of the illiterate [Prophet] they were put to shame!" (Masnavī I, 529). Presented here are illustrations of Firdausī's Shāhnāma as well as works by Sa˓ dī (ca.1184–1292), Hāfiz (ca. 1320–1389), and Jāmī (1414–1492), regarded as the last of the great Sufi poets. Also featured are illustrations from each of the five poems of the Khamsa (Quintet), by Niẓāmī (ca. 1141–1209), especially Lailā and Majnūn (The Persian Romeo and Juliet) and Bahrām Gūr's Seven Princesses.