Ulugh Beg with ladies of his harem and retainers

Historical period(s)
Timurid period, 1425-1450
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H x W: 31.7 x 24.1 cm (12 1/2 x 9 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Manuscript folio

court, harem, Timurid period (1378 - 1506), Uzbekistan

To 1946
Jacob Acheroff, Paris, France. [1]

From 1946
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Jacob Acheroff, Paris. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Jacob Acheroff


The right half of a double- page frontispiece, this remarkable painting depicts Ulugh Beg (1393-1449), a grandson of Timur (Tamerlane), the founder of the powerful Timurid dyansty of Iran and central Asia (1370-1506).  An accomplished bibliophile, historian, mathematician, and above all, an astronomer, Ulugh Beg built a celebrated observatory in Samarqand.  In this painting, he is shown in a ceremonial courtly setting, which often was held in the open air.  While the composition conforms to the norms of Timurid pictorial style, with its emphasis on idealized figural types, two-dimensional spaces, and finely painted surfaces, the bold, saturated colors are unusal and may be a particular feature of fifteenth-century painting from Samarqand.

Published References
  • Jeremy Tredinnick. An Illustrated History of Kazakhstan. .
  • I.N. Khan Arshi. Black Taj Mahal: The Emperor's Missing Tomb. New Delhi. .
  • Abu'l-Husayn Abdu'r-Rahman As-Sufi. Suwaru'l-Kawakib. Hyderabad, India. front.
  • Julia Bailey. Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World 1400-1700: Proceedings of the Conference held at the Ashmolean Museum on 30-31 August 2003. Oxford and Genoa. p. 18, fig. 1.
  • Art et Société dans le Monde Iranien. Bibliotheque Iranienne, no. 26 Paris. pp. 41-42, fig. 19.
  • Frederique Beaupertuis-Bressand, Eleanor Sims. Ulug Beg: Le Prince Astronome. Paris. pp. 44-45.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1946-1947. Washington. p. 46, pl. 1.
  • B. W. Robinson. Fifteenth-Century Persian Painting: Problems and Issues. Hagop Kevorkian Series on Near Eastern Art and Civilization New York. pp. 49-50, fig. 15.
  • Abolala Soudavar, Milo Cleveland Beach. Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection. New York. p. 70.
  • Thomas W. Lentz, Glenn D. Lowry. Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century. Exh. cat. Los Angeles. p. 90, fig. 33.
  • The Book of Travels: Genre, Ethnology, and Pilgrimage, 1250-1700. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions Leiden. p. 140, fig. 3.4.
  • B. W. Robinson. Islamic Painting and the Arts of the Book. London. p. 150.
  • Andrew Topsfield. Ketelaar’s Embassy and the Farangi Theme in the Art of Udaipur. vol. XXX, no. 5. pp. 186-187, fig. 12.
  • Barbara Brend. A Carpet and Related Pictures--A Legacy of Timur's Samarqand? vol. 30, no. 2. p. 187, fig. 12.
  • B. W. Robinson. Persian Painting and the National Epic. Annual Lecture on Aspects of Art, Henriette Hertz Trust of the British Academy London. cat. 3, p. 290.
  • Qajar Iran: Political, Social, and Cultural Change, 1800-1925. Edinburgh. p. 293.
  • Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World. Exh. cat. Los Angeles, April 26, 2022. p. 295, fig. 80.
  • M.M. Ashrafi. Where was the Portrait of Ulugh Beg Painted. no. 21. p. 24030.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.