This is a single, double-sided leaf from the Shanameh and most probably was produced in Kashmir, northern India, in the 16th century.
The Shanameh or ‘Book of Kings’ was written by the 9th century writer Firdawsi for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. Written in verse form, and comprising 60,000 rhyming couplets, it tells the story of the Persian kings from pre-Islamic Iran – from mythical times to the fall of the Sasanid Empire in the 7th century.
The epic was extremely popular in Persia and northern India and many copies were made by hand for the libraries of sultans and other rulers and those wealthy enough to commission a copy.
The page here is from a 16th century copy that almost certainly was made in Kashmir, which became an important centre for the hand production of such illuminated manuscripts. The quality of the writing, paper used and decoration suggest that it was a very expensive commission.
The page here comprises 25 lines of nasta’liq script. It has been lightly sprinkled with gold dust, and the rectangular chapter heading is fine and gilded.
The page has been mounted in a cardboard mount (as can be seen from the reverse of the page). It is in fine condition with no creases, repairs or insect damage.
Wright, E. et al, Muraqqa: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Art Services International, 2008.