Nushirvan Receives an Embassy from the Raja of Hind

Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period, ca. 1520s
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Lent by the Ebrahimi Family Collection

This painting depicts the court of the Sasanian king Nushirvan, who reigned from 531 to 578. Known for his civil and judiciary reforms and fair treatment of his subjects, Nushirvan was commonly known as the “just” (adil). In this carefully balanced but bustling court scene, the king, dressed in Safavid fineries, is enthroned on the right. He addresses the envoy of an Indian raja, who has arrived with a thousand camels laden with sumptuous gifts of gold, silver, rubies, diamonds, and ambergris. Nushirvan and his courtiers are well pleased with the presentation of elegantly saddled horses and ten white elephants, one of which enters the palace gate at the lower left. After these diplomatic gifts are taken to the royal treasury, the envoy offers his most special and mysterious present: the game of chess.