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Drawing depicts a young woman at a pond holding a blue towel around her waist in a landscape containing flowers and a graceful and elegant blossoming tree. Set on a page with a softly illuminated with floral pattern.
AKM422, Shirin Before Her Bath

© The Aga Khan Museum

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Shirin Before Her Bath
  • Accession Number:AKM422
  • Creator:signed by Kamal
  • Place:Iran
  • Dimensions:29 x 18.6 cm
  • Date:1580–90
  • Materials and Technique:opaque watercolour, ink, and gold on paper
  • This single-page drawing depicts a young woman at a pond in a landscape containing flowers and a graceful and elegant blossoming tree. The topic of the painting comes from the well-known story of Shirin and Khosrow, in which Shirin takes a bath at a pond and washes her flowing hair. This is a famous moment in Persian literature, often depicted with Khosrow gazing at the unclothed, bathing Shirin. However, he is missing from this painting. Their story, written by Nizami Ganjavi (1141–1209), was a tragic romance and is, along with the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), one of the most illustrated stories in Iranian literature. That this drawing from the Aga Khan Museum Collection bears an inscription with the name of Shirin [1] shows that depicting Shirin without the gazing Khosrow was common among the artists in the late 16th and 17th centuries.

Further Reading

 

Signed by Kamal in its bottom right corner, the drawing is pasted onto a folio richly decorated with mythical animals. In the bottom left corner, a word is written that tells the calligrapher where in the story to continue. According to this advice, the drawing should be part of an illustrated manuscript. The young lady’s moon-faced head and long hair follow the Timurid aesthetic, and the blue cloth she wears is detailed in Nizami’s story. A student of Mirza ‘Ali,[2] the artist Kamal was famous for his skill as a painter of faces, as exemplified by Shirin in this painting. He is thought to have moved later in life from his native Tabriz to Turkey,[3] where he helped to develop new styles in the art of the Ottoman book.[4]

 

A drawing attributed to Muhammad Qasim from about 1660, now in the Topkapı Palace Museum Library, shows a similar scene from the story.5 In this kind of drawing, the viewer takes the place of the gazing Khosrow.

 

— Filiz Çakır Phillip


Notes
[1] P.W. Schulz, Die persische-Islamische Miniaturmalerei (Leipzig: K.W. Hiersemann, 1914), tafel 164.
[2] F.R. Martin, The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century (London: Quaritch, 1912; reprint London: Holland Press, 1968), 118, 120.
[3] Ernest Kühnel, “History of Miniature Painting and Drawing.” In Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, A Survey of Persian Art from Historic Times to the Present, vol. 5 (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1939 [reprint 1964]), 1882.
[4] Ernst J. Grube, “Herat, Tabriz, Istanbul: The Development of a Pictorial Style.” In Paintings from Islamic Lands, ed. Ralph Pinder-Wilson (Oxford: Cassirer, 1969), 107.


References
Grube, Ernst J. The Classical Style in Islamic Painting: The Early School of Herat and Its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968.
Kühnel, Ernest. “History of Miniature Painting and Drawing.” In Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, A Survey of Persian Art from Historic Times to the Present, vol. 5. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1939 (reprint 1964), 1829–97.
Martin, F.R. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century. London: Quaritch, 1912 (reprint, London: Holland Press, 1968). https://archive.org/details/gri_33125007047463/page/n9
Phillip, Filiz Çakır. Enchanted lines: drawings from the Aga Khan Museum collection. 2014. ISBN: 9780991992874 
Schulz, P.W. Die persische-Islamische Miniaturmalerei. Ein Beitrag zur Kunstgeschichte Irans, 2 vol. Leipzig: K.W. Hiersemann, 1914. ISBN: 978-0366953547

Note: This online resource is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. We are committed to improving this information and will revise and update knowledge about this object as it becomes available.

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