Khamsah-i Niẓāmī


The Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (circa 1140–circa 1202) spent all his life in the city of Ganca in what is today Azerbaijan. After his death, his main works were compiled into the Khamsah (Quintet or pentalogy). Among other works, this collection comprises the famous love stories of Khusraw and Shirin and Laylah and Majnun. Nizami’s popular romantic and erotic epic Haft Paykar (Seven thrones) was also included. Written in a gripping and strongly suggestive style, it narrates the life of the legendary Sassanid ruler Bahram Gur (i.e., Bahram V, reigned 420‒38) who married seven princesses from seven countries. For each of his wives he built a domed palace, which he decorated with individual color schemes to represent different planets. On every day of the week, Bahram Gur received a different wife and was entertained by her in her particular palace. Tuesday, for example, he spent with his Russian princess in the red palace of Mars; Wednesday he enjoyed in the company of his Chorasmian princess in the turquoise palace of Mercury. This incomplete manuscript copy of the Khamsah contains 18 miniatures, of which seven are concerned with Bahram Gur’s story. They were painted and set in the tradition of the Shiraz school of the second half of the 16th century and feature the intense colors and very slender figures typical of this period. In the miniature of a scene from the turquoise palace (207 verso), the faces of the figures are remarkably pleasant. Particularly charming is the garden scene depicting a youth bending down a blossom branch while a second youth watches him expectantly. The manuscript came to Munich as a French restitution after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Last updated: November 16, 2017