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Image of Zahhak enthroned (page from a dispersed Shahnameh)

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Zahhak enthroned (page from a dispersed Shahnameh)

Creation date: ca. 1435
Creation place: Iran

Other Information

Type: Manuscript Painting
Medium and Support: Ink and opaque watercolor on paper
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Binney 3rd
Accession Number: 1972.223
State/Province: Fars Province
Dimensions: 3 3/16 in. x 6 5/32 in. (8.1 cm x 15.6 cm)


Gropper Art Galleries, Cambridge, Massachusetts ( - October 23, 1960)

Stuart Cary Welch, Cambridge, Massachusetts ( - )

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (October 23, 1960 - December 29, 1972)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (December 29, 1972 - )

Label Copy

Arts of Iran Rotation
October 2020 (L. Akbarnia)

Zahhak enthroned
Page from a dispersed Shahnama
Iran, possibly Shiraz, ca. 1435
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1972.223

This page depicts Zahhak, Arabia’s villainous ruler, after taking the throne from the beloved Iranian king Jamshid. Zahhak ruled for a thousand years under the influence of Ahriman, the Zoroastrian manifestation of darkness. Disguised as a cook, Ahriman kissed Zahhak’s shoulders to grow a snake from each in reminder of Zahhak’s debt to him. The Persian caption and text refer to Zahhak’s story and evil reign, with two women in the scene identified as “pure souls from the house of Jamshid”
¾ possibly his sisters ¾ trembling like willow leaves before the new king.


Asian Court Rotation
June 2007
The benevolent primeval Persian king, Jamshid, through hubris, excessive pride, lost his farr, or royal glory, to Zahhak the evil Arab king. Zahhak had been seduced by a cook, possibly the kneeling figure, who was a manifestation of the force of darkness in Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of Iran. In this ominous scene, the two sisters of Jamshid have been brought "trembling like a willow-leaf" before Zahhak.

Zahhak sat on the throne a thousand years
Obeyed by all the world. Through that long time
The customs of the wise were out of vogue,
The lusts of madmen flourished everywhere,
All virtue was despised, black art esteemed,
Right lost to sight, disaster manifest;
While demons accomplished their fell purposes
And no man spake of good unless by stealth.
Two sisters of Jamshid, their sex's crown,
Were brought out trembling like a willow-leaf.

Last Updated: 3/11/2022


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Persian and Indian Miniatures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd The Portland Art Association , 9/28/1962 - 11/29/1962

Islamic Art from the Collection of Edwin Binney 3rd Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions Service , 10/1/1966 - 10/19/1969

Islamic Art Across the World Indiana University Art Museum , 6/18/1970 - 10/1/1970

Tastes in Asian Art Rotation , 5/28/2005 - 11/6/2005


This object has the following bibliographic references:

Richard Ettinghausen. Islamic Art from the Collection of Edwin Binney 3rd Smithsonian Institution. Washington, District of Columbia, 1966
Page Number: no. 30

Theodore Robert Bowie. Islamic Art from Across the World Indiana University Art Museum. Bloomington, Indiana, 1970
Page Number: 33, no. 53

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