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

Manuscript N, jkjk_502

Shah Esmāʿil Charges the Turkish Guns at the Battle of Čālderān

Location: The David Collection, Copenhagen, #27/1986
Mount: dark green mount with gold decoration 35.9 x 23.3 cm; salmon colored collar.
Written surface: 23.5 (scaled) x 15.3 cm.
Painting: 19.8 x 15.3 cm.
Text references: J.K., p.502 lines 14 to 16.
See Savory, SA_1979, pp.69-70 for this event in the History of Shah ʿĀbbās.

Date of this event: 2 Rajab 920/23 August 1514.
The place is in Diār Baḵr at the Battle of Čālderān with the Ottomans. As was their usual practice, the Ottomans relied heavily on the use of artillery, which they positioned in a row on high ground and chained the individual pieces together. The massing of the heavy artillery produced devastating results and literally desecrated the ranks of the Safavid forces, which at this point in time were dependent on cavalry and ground troops. Esmāʿil reportedly with valor (and perhaps with desperation) on several occasions charged the Ottoman guns and managed to sever the chains with his sword (this is hard to believe). Although the Safavids presented a formidable adversary for the Turks, the battle did not go well for them. Thousands died on the battlefield including some of Esmāʿil's most prominent emirs: Ḥoseyn Beg Lāla, Khan Moḥammad Ostājlu, and many of the Ostājlu tribe. Sultan Selim marched into Tabriz, and after Čālderān Shah Esmāʿil never again fought in battle.

The painting portrays Esmāʿil, wearing a white tunic, leading a charge of troops against the Ottoman cannon on the left. The Safavids are armed with swords, lances and bows and arrows; the Ottoman defenders in addition to the cannon, are also armed with rifles. It is truly a medieval Safavid army facing the avant garde of a modern army on the battlefied. Sultan Selim observes from the upper left. Two inscriptions, possibly of later date, appear on the painting: one on the hem of his coat identifies šāh esmāʿil and the other on the background just to the right of center identifies the event depicted. The painting is not signed or dated, but clearly in the style of Moʿin.

Painting references:
Sotheby's London, 22 May 1986, Lot 151 (in color)
Louisiana Revy_1987, no.242.
von Folsach, 1996, no. 259.
von Folsach, David_2001, no. 49.
von Folsach, David_2007, no. 89.
Provenence: Formerly in the Baltimore Museum of Art, 1947.116.

Photo: Permille Klemp. Courtesy of The David Collection, Copenhagen

Robert Eng
Last Updated: August 2, 2011 | Originally published:
August 2, 2011