Bahram Gur Hunting from Nizami’s "Khamsah"


This painting represents an episode drawn from Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft Paykar (Seven thrones), the fourth book of his Khamsah (Quintet). The great Sasanian king Bahram Gur (reigned 430‒38), famous for his hunting prowess and thus known by his nickname (Bahram Gur means “wild ass”), astonishes his companions with his quasi-divine skill and power in hunting onagers. After his expedition and as a gesture of generosity, he orders 1,200 onagers (half to be branded and half to be earmarked with gold rings) to be distributed among his people. The scene shows the ruler and his entourage on horseback against a pink and green landscape as they shoot wild animals with arrows. Behind a hillock appear four other men either looking at the scene below or observing the birds flying in the gold-painted sky. Above and below the painting are illuminated panels of the story’s text, which continues on the fragment’s verso. The illuminated panels with diagonal text and triangular corners, or “thumb pieces,” in the upper-right corner create a visual marker for the painting. The painting is typical of 16th-century Persian compositions, but it was repaired and repainted at a later date. A large rectangular panel was added, and missing areas of the painting were filled. Some of the characters’ faces also bear overpainting. The collections of the Library of Congress contain several other paintings illustrating this and other episodes from Nizami’s Khamsah.

Last updated: September 30, 2016