Friday, November 22, 2013

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen All Year

The Court Of Gayumars, from The Shahnama Of Shah Tahmasp, by Sultan Muhammad
Click to make it big, or visit the Aga Khan Museum where I found it.

Here are some details for you:

A painting so rich and vibrant, it spills out of its frame, unconstrained, filled with jewel-toned stones and incredibly detailed plants, curling trees reminiscent of Japanese bonsais, people and animals in peaceful harmony.

The Court Of Gayumars was painted in Persia (modern-day Iran) around 1522-25, as an illustration for a book (an illuminated manuscript.) I wish I had a higher-quality picture. The original measures 47 by 32 cm, or 18.5 by 12.5 inches, so it's not a very big painting. It now resides in the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada (or will as soon as the building is finished.) In the meanwhile, the museum's exhibits are touring around other museums, and since many of them are also lovely, I recommend going to see them if they visit your city.

From the description on the website:
"...It depicts the first king, Gayumars, enthroned before his community - its members clad in leopard furs and skins - his son Siyamak seated to his left, and grandson Hushang standing to his right. Though the composition implies the just succession between father and son, signified by the spatial position between them (where left is favored), we know that this will never take place, emphasizing the inherent tragedy of the tale.

"...Though the painting lacks a signature, it is one of very few mentioned by a contemporary. In his treatise on art history, written in 1544-45 CE, Dust Muhammad praises Sultan Muhammad for his creations, calling him “the rarity of the age,” and singles out “The court of Gayumars” as a painting that humbles all artists who see it."

What a fabulous painting!

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