Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | History of Shah Esmāʿil | tāriḵ-e jahāngushā'i-ye ḵāqān-e ṣāḥibibqirān

Manuscript L, folio 145v

Shah Esmāʿil Kills a Lion at Ctesiphon

In 914/1508 the Safavids captured Baghdad. The text states that after inspecting a building that he had ordered in that city, Esmāʿil went to visit Tāq-e Kasrā at Ctesiphon, where he was told by the inhabitants that there was a large lion creating a nuisance and hindering free movement. The nobles accompanying Esmāʿil wanted to take care of the lion, but the shah insisted that he deal with the animal personally. To their amazement, with one shot Esmāʿil killed the lion and ordered the skin stuffed.

The painting is composed in four layers of spatial depth. In the first zone, the foreground, Shah Esmāʿil, identified by his white knee length coat and qezelbāš tāj, stands with his bow drawn taught, and arrow pointed at the nose of a large lion advancing toward him from the right. Behind the vegetated strip in the foreground the terrain rises vegetationless to a craggy ridge about two thirds of the way up the picture. On the sloping ground, at the far left, are the forequarters of a horse and attendant, presumably Esmāʿil’s mount and groom. Beyond the ridge is a third zone which rises to an even craggier rock formation, and in the far background is the sky. In the hollow between the two ridges are four qezelbāš emirs, symmetrically disposed two on each side, on horseback and each with their hands raised in a gesture of alarm that Esmāʿil should endanger his life in such a manner.

Painting: 16.8 x 12 cm. One line of text above and below the painting. Frame encloses painting and text; the hindquarters of the lion protrude rather awkwardly beyond the frame into the right margin. This may in part be due to restoration when the painting was remounted. The painting has suffered some damage: a tear in the upper left corner; flaking under the body of the lion; and the features of Esmāʿil’s face have disappeared entirely. Some retouching appears to have been done on the hindquarters of the lion. Unsigned.

Painting references:

Robert Eng
Last updated: November 23, 2010


Photo: © The British Library, London