One of the most voluminous epics of world literature, the Shahnama (or "Book of Kings") narrates the history of the ancient kings of Iran, from their mythical beginnings to the Arab conquest in 651 A.D. Although illustrated copies of the poem were commissioned by numerous Iranian kings, the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-1576) is arguably the most important and beautifully illustrated version ever produced. It was created by two generations of the most renowned early-16th-century artists at the royal atelier in Tabriz, the first capital of the Safavid dynasty. Characterized by calligraphy, painting, and illuminations of exquisite quality and artistic originality, the volume is considered one of the highest achievements in the arts of the book.
After its creation, the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp traveled through several royal collections until it was broken up and dispersed in the 20th century. Now, for the first time, all 258 illuminated pages of this famous volume are reproduced in color and close to their original size in this sumptuous publication.
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This smaller, more accessible version of the 2011 sold-out deluxe edition offers beautiful illustrations and informative supplementary texts.
Sheila R. Canby is the Patti Cadby Birch Curator in Charge of the Department of Islamic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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