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The Death of Shirin

Creation date: ca. 1440
Creation place: Afghanistan

Other Information

Type: Manuscript Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor on paper
Credit Line: Gift of Edwin Binney 3rd
Accession Number: 1971.57
Dimensions: 10 1/8 in. x 7 3/4 in. (25.72 cm x 19.69 cm)
Currently on view


Hôtel Drouot, Paris, France (May 27, 1968 - May 27, 1968)

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (May 27, 1968 - December 21, 1971)

Joseph Soustiel, Paris, France (May 27, 1968 - May 27, 1968)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (December 21, 1971 - )

Label Copy

March 2023
Mountain, Meadow, Citadel: The Many Landscapes of Afghanistan  
This scene from the tragic romance of the Sasanian king Khusraw II and the Armenian princess Shirin belongs to a fifteenth-century copy of the Persian epic the Shahnameh, written around 1010 by the Persian poet Firdawsi and originally presented to the Ghaznavid emperor Mahmud of Ghazni, in Afghanistan. After a courtship leading to marriage, Khusraw is poisoned to death by his son from a previous marriage. Devastated, Shirin requests to visit her beloved’s tomb, shown at left, at which point she wails in grief and poisons herself as her murderous steps looks on, holding his finger to his mouth in amazement. A more celebrated version of the story was written later by Nizami (d. 1209). 

June 2007
Lyric Visions
After extended descriptions of the courtship leading up to the marriage of Khosrow and Shirin, their relationship is telescoped to their death. Although this page is from a Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, by Ferdowsi, who was a predecessor of Nezami, his version of the death of Khosrow and Shirin is very similar to that of Nezami.
Khosrow had been poisoned by his son from a previous marriage, who had pretensions to the throne. In a poignant scene Shirin poisons herself and leans against the wall of Khosrow’s tomb, while her murderous stepson looks on, biting his finger in amazement. The red domed tower against which she leans dying is a 15th–century conception of a pre-Islamic tomb.

He asked: “Hath that good lady further wishes?”
She sent to say: “I have one wish, no more:
I fain would ope the late Sháh's charnel-house;
I have a great desire to look on him.”
Shírwí replied: “So do, 'tis natural.”
The keeper oped the door. That pious lady
Began her wailing, went and laid her face
Upon the visage of Khusrau Parwíz,
Spake of the past and took the mortal bane:*

She sent the dust up from her own sweet life.
She sat beside the Sháh with visage veiled,
Clad in a single camphor-scented robe;
She set her back against the wall and died;
She died and won the plaudits of the world.
Shírwí fell sick when he had heard the news,
For such a spectacle affrighted him.
He bade construct another sepulchre,
And make her diadem of musk and camphor.
C. 2050
He shut the old Sháh's charnel. Soon they gave
Shírwí the bane; the world had had its fill
Of Sháhs! Thus luckless both in birth and death
He left the throne of kingship to his son.
One reigneth seven months and in the eighth
Doth don the camphor crown! Of earth's good things
To have possession of the throne is best,
Of evils life cut short is evilest.
Last Updated: 3/21/2023


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Islamic Art from the Edwin Binney Collection Phoenix Art Museum , 3/18/1977 - 5/1/1977


This object has the following bibliographic references:

Art de la Perse: Hôtel Drouot. Paris, France, May 27, 1968
Page Number: Lot no. 60, Figure Number: 60

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