Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) by Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325); The abduction by sea

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of a Khamsa (Quintet) by Amir Khusraw Dihlavi; The abduction by sea, verses in Persian black nasta’liq script.
Border: The painting is set in blue and gold rulings on cream-colored paper.

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Artist: Attributed to Kamal al-Din Bihzad (ca. 1467-1535)
Historical period(s)
Timurid period, 1496
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
H x W: 27 x 19.3 cm (10 5/8 x 7 5/8 in)
Afghanistan, Herat
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Manuscript folio

abduction, Afghanistan, boat, Khamsa, Khusraw, ocean, Timurid period (1378 - 1506)
Provenance research underway.

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of a Khamsa (Quintet) by Amir Khusraw Dihlavi; The abduction by sea, verses in Persian black nasta'liq script.
Border: The painting is set in blue and gold rulings on cream-colored paper.


Lyrical poems were among the most popular illustrated texts at the court of Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara (reigned 1470-1506). This illustration belongs to a copy of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi's popular Khamsa (Quintet), a set of poems commissioned by Sultan Husayn Mirza's son, Sultan Muhammad Muhsin Bahadur Khan (died 1507). Its subtle coloring and fine drawing echo the romantic mood of the story, which describes the abduction of a king's favorite female attendant by her lover. A large expanse of water, originally painted silver and now tarnished to black, dominates the composition. The psychological interaction of the figures, shown in various poses, is characteristic of the style associated with Bihzad and his circle.

One of the most celebrated painters at the court of Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara (reigned 1470-1506) was Kamal-uddin Bihzad (circa 1467-1535). Orphaned at a young age, Bihzad was reared and trained by Aqa Mirak, another renowned painter in Herat. Towards the end of his life, Bizhad, who became known as the "rarity of his time," moved to Tabriz in northwestern Iran, where he died in 1535. Bihzad and his contemporaries are largely accredited with introducing a new sense of naturalism into Timurid painting. In addition to refining the spatial clarity and ornamental elaboration of earlier fifteenth-century painting, Bihzad incorporated lively scenes from everyday life into his compositions. His carefully delineated figures show considerable psychological depth and seem to occupy real space. These new conventions, however, should not be confused with the interest in naturalism found in Western painting, for Bihzad and his fellow artists still worked within the strict conventions of traditional Persian painting.

Published References
  • Oleg Akimushkin, Priscilla P. Soucek. The Arts of the Book in Central Asia: 14th - 16th Centuries. London and Paris. .
  • Verna Russillo Prentice. The Illustration of Sa'di's Poetry in 15th-Century Herat. Cambridge, Massachusetts. ill. 39.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Ernst Kuhnel. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. 6 vols., London and New York, 1938 - 1939. vol. 3: pp. 1864-1865, vol. 5: pl. 891a.
  • Laurence Binyon, J.V.S. Wilkinson, Basil Gray. Persian Miniature Painting: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Miniatures Exhibited at Burlington House, January-March 1931. Exh. cat. Oxford, January - March 1931. no. 85.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Exhibition of 2500 Years of Persian Art. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 24, p. 8.
  • Along the Silk Road. p. 17, fig. 3.
  • Armenag Sakisian. La Miniature Persane du XIIe au XVIIe siecle: Ouvrage accompagne de la reproduction de 193 miniatures dont deux en couleurs. Paris and Brussels. pp. 82-83, fig. 108.
  • Abolala Soudavar, Milo Cleveland Beach. Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection. New York. p. 97, fig. 13.
  • A.M. Kevorkian. Les Jardins du Desir: Sept Siecles de Peinture Persane. Paris. pp. 130-131.
  • E. Bahari, I.B. Tauris Publishers. Bihzad, Master of Persian Painting. London and New York. p. 169.
  • Barbara Brend. Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau's Khamsah. New York and London. p. 216, pl. 79.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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