The Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh

The Shahnameh was a favourite poem of monarchs across the Islamic world. Rulers often commissioned lavishly illustrated manuscripts of the epic to express their power and wealth, and to study Iran’s legends, history, and examples of wise kingship. Many of its stories were relevant to issues that confronted their patrons. One of the most luxurious examples is the copy dedicated to Tahmasp (r. 1524–1576), the second ruler of Iran’s Safavid dynasty (1501–1722). This majestic manuscript took over twenty years and two generations of Iran’s greatest artists to complete, including its 258 illustrations, each considered a masterpiece of Persian painting. Dispersed in the twentieth century, folios from the Shah Tahmasp Shahnameh can be found in museums and private collections across the world, including ten illustrations in the Aga Khan Museum Collection.