The Court of Keyomars – Soltan Mohammad


This page is a wonderful example of Iranian art. The Court of Keyomars is a page from the Shah-Nameh (Books of the Kings) written by Shah Tahmasp I, the ruler of Iran. This page was painted around 1525-1535 by Sultan Mohammad. This artwork is not signed but it was mentioned by Dust Muhammad in 1544. This man was a contemporary art historian. The big page (47×32 centimeters) is now in the Aga Khan Museum of Toronto.

Keyomars was the first legendary king of Iran. He lived with his people in the mountains. The king taught humanity how to get food ready and he created the royalty’s ceremonies. His reign was a peaceful time, and men and animals lived together in harmony. Every living creatures came to honor him. This page is the first illumination of the Shah-Nameh.

In the center of the composition, Keyomars sits surrounded by his son Siyamak, sitting on his left, and his grandson Hushang, standing on his right. The landscape is idyllic: men are close to animals, even the rocks are made to show the harmony. The text is reduced to several captions. This page presents a wide palette of colors where the cool colors dominate. The shades are special, and we can see pink, purple, light blue. These colors are rare elsewhere. The painting is big but it still extends beyond the frame to overflow on the speckled golden margins. Soltan Mohammad fills the scene with several figures, animals, and details but none of those disturb the legibility of the scene.

According to some contemporary texts, this page took three years of work. This page is a masterpiece in itself and it also shows the synthesis between the turkmen style, the timurid stye and chinese influences.

                       iran 2


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