© The Aga Khan Museum
© The Aga Khan Museum
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The manuscript to which this folio belongs is a 15th-century illustrated copy of the Khavaranama (The Book of Eastern Exploits), composed in 1426 by the Persian poet Maulana ibn Husam. Written in the form of rhyming verses, the Khavaranama is a collection of stories recounting the heroic deeds of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The depiction of a religious figure such as ‘Ali as the protagonist in an epic poem is characteristic of medieval Persian literature, as texts were often written in imitation of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings). The following scene depicts one of ‘Ali’s companions, Abu’l Mihjan, pleading for the attention of the maiden Gulandam while seated at her feet.
An important figure in Shi‘i Islam, ‘Ali is portrayed in the Khavaranama as a hero who possesses supernatural powers to defeat demons, dragons, and enemy kings. Followed by his loyal companions, such as Abu’l Mihjan, Malik Ashtar, Amr ibn Umayya, and others, ‘Ali endeavours to defeat the idolatrous kings in the East (the Khavaran) in order to ensure the spread of Islam. Through these distinct episodes, the Khavaranama narrates the victory of good over evil.
The Maiden Gulandam and an Ardent Admirer depicts Abu’l Mihjan’s desperate entreaties for Gulandam’s favours. Having found the encampment of the three beauties, Gulandam, Gulbuy, and Gulnam, Abu’l Mihjan decides to undergo the physical discomfort of seating himself in a cold stream in order for Gulandam to cast her eyes towards him. Semi-clothed, Abu’l Mihan gazes upon Gulandam while perched in a cold stream of water, his horse and belongings forgotten. Gulandam looks upon her admirer while lifting her yellow sleeve in surprise, obscuring her nose and mouth. Following close behind, Gulandam’s companion rushes to Abu’l Mihjan’s aid, carrying an additional robe. A third figure watches from the safety of an embroidered tent, while an onlooker in the background bites his finger in astonishment at the spectacle before him. Verse lines, organized in four columns, frame the image at the top and bottom.
Produced in Shiraz, the scenes in this manuscript are executed in a style characteristic of painting production in the region in the 15th and 16th centuries. This style can be seen in the use of bright colours, such as yellows, reds, and blue, as well as in the clear division of space between the principal scene and the horizon in the background. Abu’l Mihjan’s bulbous white turban, as well as the women’s headdresses, are also distinctive elements of the Shiraz school of painting in this period. 
While the manuscript previously consisted of 155 drawings, these were dispersed in various institutions. The majority remain at the Gulistan Palace Museum in Tehran, while other folios can be found at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
— Michelle al-Ferzly
 Denise-Marie Teece, “Two Folios from the Khavaranama (Book of the East) of Maulana Muhammad ibn Husam al-Din,” 185–86; Melville, “Ibn Husam’s Havaranama,” 219–34.
 Askari, The Medieval Reception of the Shahnama as a Mirror for Princes, 34–36.
 Canby, Princes, Poets, and Paladins, 30–33; Welch and Welch, “Golandam and a Suitor,” 62–63.
 Ekhtiar, “Infused with Shi‘ism.” In Gruber and Shalem, The Image of the Prophet between Ideal and Ideology, 104–105.
 Falk, Treasures of Islam, 62–63.
 Canby, Princes, Poets, and Paladins, 30–33.
 See Hardvard Arts Museums, 57.1965, https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/217456 and Metropolitan Museum of Art, 55.184.1, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/451327.
Askari, Nasrin. The Medieval Reception of the Shāhnāma as a Mirror for Princes. Leiden: Brill, 2016. ISBN: 9789004307919
Canby, Sheila. Princes, Poets, and Paladins: Islamic and Indian paintings from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. London: British Museum Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780714114835
Ekhtiar, Maryam. “Infused with Shi‘ism.” In The Image of the Prophet between Ideal and Ideology: A Scholarly Investigation, eds. Christiane Gruber and Avinoam Shalem. Berlin/Boston: DeGruyter, 2014, 97–136. ISBN: 9783110312386
Falk, Toby. Treasures of Islam. Seacaucus, NJ: Wellfleet Press, 1985. ISBN: 9781871487305
Teece, Denis Marie. “Two Folios from the Khavaranama (Book of the East) of Maulana Muhammad ibn Husam al-Din.” In Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. Maryam Ekhtiar. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven, Connecticut: Distributed by Yale University Press, 2011, 185–86. ISBN: 9780300175851
Melville, Charles. “Ibn Husam’s Havaranama,” 219–34.
Welch, Anthony and Stuart Cary Welch. Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. Ithaca: Published for the Asia Society by Cornell University Press, 1982. ISBN: 9780801415487
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