Beaker of slightly spreading cylindrical form on a low foot rim; broken and repaired.
Clay: soft, white.
Glaze: white, stanniferous.
Decoration painted in red, blue, grayish-yellow and pale green enamels over glaze: Bizhan and Manizha from the Shahnamah.

Historical period(s)
Saljuq period, late 12th century
Stone-paste painted under glaze and over glaze with enamel (mina'i)
Mina'i ware
H x W x D: 12 x 11.2 x 11.2 cm (4 3/4 x 4 7/16 x 4 7/16 in)
Iran, Kashan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 04: Engaging the Senses
Ceramic, Vessel


Afrasiyab, Bijan, Gurgin, Iran, Manija, Mina'i ware, Rustam, Saljuq period (1037 - 1300), Shahnama

Parish-Watson Company, New York 1928 [1]

From 1928
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Parish-Watson Company, New York in 1928 [2]


[1] Object file, undated folder sheet note. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Parish-Watson Company


Beaker of slightly spreading cylindrical form on a low foot rim; broken and repaired.
Clay: soft, white.
Glaze: white, stanniferous.
Decoration painted in red, blue, grayish-yellow and pale green enamels over glaze: Bizhan and Manizha from the Shahnamah.


This celebrated beaker is the only known object from the Islamic world that is illustrated with a complete narrative cycle from the Shahnama, the Persian Book of Kings. Organized in horizontal bands, the small but highly detailed images recount the adventures of Bizhan and Manizha, beginning with Firdawsi's beloved telling the story. The climax in the narrative appears in the lower register and depicts Rustam rescuing Bizhan from the pit where he has been imprisoned by the Turanian king Afrasiyab, Manizha's evil father. This pictorial cycle predates any other depictions of the Bizhan and Manizha romance by some one hundred years.

It is interesting to note that the adventures of the two lovers appear on a drinking cup, a vessel of particular ritual significance in royal banquets during the ancient and Islamic periods.

Published References
  • The Art of Silk Road: New Research Trends and Perspective. Daejeon, Korea, November 30, 2021. pg 177 and 196, fig 5.
  • Marianna Shreve Simpson. The narrative structure of a medieval Iranian beaker. vol. 12. pp. [15]-24.
  • Arthur Sambon. Catalogue des objets d'art et de haute curiosité, de l'antiquité, du moyen age, de la renaissance, et autres...formant la collection de M. Arthur Sambon dont la vente aura lieu a Paris galerie Georges Petit... les lundi 25...jeudi 28 mai 1914. Paris. no. 152.
  • Matthias Ostermann. The Ceramic Narrative. London and Philadelphia. fig. 14.
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 287.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, 1960-1966. vol. 22: pl. 22.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Grace Dunham Guest. The Iconography of a Kashan Luster Plate. vol. 4 Washington and Ann Arbor. fig. 9, pl. 4.
  • Ralph Pinder Wilson. Islamic Art: One Hundred Plates in Colour with an Introductory Essay on Islamic Art. London. pl. 27.
  • Antonio Garcia Jaen. Arte y Artistas Musulmanes. Madrid. pl. 154.
  • Benjamin Rowland, Laurence Sickman, H. G. Henderson, Robert Treat Paine, Richard Ettinghausen, Eric Schroeder. The University Prints. Oriental Art Series O 4 vols. Newton, Massachusetts, 1938-1941. Section 4: Iranian and Islamic art, pl. 496.
  • Henri Riviere, Gaston Migeon. La Ceramique dans l'art Musulman. 2 vols., Paris. vol. 1: l. 45.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Ernst Kuhnel. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. 6 vols., London and New York, 1938 - 1939. vol. 11: p. 1561, 1563, vol. V, pl. 660b.
  • Fredrik Robert Martin. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century. 2 vols., London. vol. 1: fig. 3.
  • Arthur Lane. Early Islamic Pottery: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Persia. Faber Monographs on Pottery and Porcelain London. pl. 70b.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book III: Exhibition of September 5, 1933. Washington, September 5, 1933. .
  • Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani. Trois manuscrits de d'Iran Seldjoukide. vol. 16. pp. 3-51, fig. 13.
  • Linda Komaroff. Paintings in Silver and Gold: The Decoration of Persian Metalwork and Its Relationship to Manuscript Illustration. no. 2, Fall 1994. p. 8, fig. 6.
  • Annette Hagedorn. Islamic Art. Germany. p. 11.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Exhibition of 2500 Years of Persian Art. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 70, pp. 19, 21.
  • Robert Hillenbrand, Dr. Chase F. Robinson, Massumeh Farhad, Sana Mirza. The Great Mongol Shahnama. New Haven, CT, January 31, 2023. p. 30, fig. 1.4.
  • Marianna Shreve Simpson. L'Art Islamique: Asiae, Iran, Afgahanistan, Asia Centrale et Inde. La Grammaire des Styles Paris, 1956-1958. pp. 30-31.
  • Margaret S. Graves. Arts of Allusion: Object, Ornament, and Architecture in Medieval Islam. New York. p. 32, fig. 3.28.
  • Florence E. Day. A Review of "The Ceramic Art in Islamic Times. B. Dated Faience". vol. 8, pt.1-2 Ann Arbor, 1941. p. 39.
  • Marianna Shreve Simpson, Olga Davidson. Ferdowsi's Shahnama. p. 80.
  • Louise Allison Cort, Massumeh Farhad, Ann C. Gunter. Asian Traditions in Clay: The Hauge Gifts. Washington, 2000. p. 84, fig. 4.
  • Kjeld von Folsach. The Human Figure in Islamic Art: Holy Men, Princes, and Commoners. Exh. cat. Denmark, October 2017. p. 85, fig. 24.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Ceramics from the World of Islam. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 44, pp. 100-101.
  • Ernst Kuhnel. Islamische Kleinkunst: ein Handbuch fur Sammler and Liebhaber. Bibliothek fur Kunst, 2nd ed. Braunschweig, Germany. p. 111, fig. 68.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 132-133.
  • , Eva Baer, David Nicolle, Barbara Schmitz, Oliver Watson. The Art of the Saljuqs in Iran and Anatolia. Costa Mesa, California. pp. 135, 156, fig. 4.
  • David Alexander. The Camel Through the Ages. vol. 1, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. p. 140, fig. 105.
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Notes on the Miniatures on a Thirteenth-Century Beaker. vol. 10. pp. 148-152.
  • Eleanor Sims, Boris I. Marshak, Ernst Grube. Peerless Images: Persian Painting and its Sources. New Haven and London. p. 223.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Exhibition of Islamic Pottery at the Freer Gallery of Art. London, March 1974. pp. 223, 224, fig. 8A.
  • Marianna Shreve Simpson. The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts. Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts New York and London. pp. 233-247, 270.
  • Sheila Blair, Jonathan M. Bloom. Islamic Arts. Art and Ideas London. pp. 269-270, figs. 143-144.
  • Phaidon Editors. 30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space. New York. p. 275.
  • Jose Pijoan. Arte Islamico. vol. 12, Summa artis, historia general del arte, 1st ed. Madrid. p. 322, fig. 449.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. p. 346.
  • The Cambridge World History of Violence, Volume II 500-1500 CE. The Cambridge World History of Violence, vol. 2 Cambridge, United Kingdom, May 21, 2020. p. 587, Fig. 28.6.
  • Islamic Art and Archaeology: Collected Papers. Berlin. p. 614, fig. 9.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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