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The Eckstein Shahnama: An Ottoman Book of Kings

The Eckstein Shahnama: An Ottoman Book of Kings


The great Persian poet Firdausi’s epic Shahnama, or ‘Books of Kings’, written at the turn of the eleventh century CE, is a seamless tapestry of historical and legendary material prominently featuring battles and individual struggles with fierce demons and enemy champions. The first known illustrations of the poem date to the early fourteenth century. The splendidly illustrated and illuminated late sixteenth-century Eckstein Shahnama (so called from a distinguished previous owner, Bernard Eckstein) is one of an important group of so-called ‘truncated’ Shahnamas which end Firdausi’s narrative with Alexander the Great. These manuscripts were long regarded as Persian, but new research suggests that, though the text is Persian and the style of the painting is apparently Persian, they were actually produced in imitation of Persian examples by Turkish workshops.


This richly illustrated study confirms the Ottoman origin of this and other manuscripts in the group and demonstrates the Eckstein Shahnama in particular to be a representative example of Ottoman manuscript painting and to have had itself a significant influence on later production. This joins a series of outstanding publications on Islamic manuscripts by Sam Fogg.

  • By Will Kwiatowski

    64 pages, paperback

    300 x 240 mm, 125 illustrations
    ISBN: 978 0 954901 45 5

  • In the press

     "This book is a vital contribution to the understanding of Asiatic art, its confluences, and its narrative axes in time, space, form and stylistic traditions. It helps to connect the art of the region to its ancestry as well as to explore its trajectories and their diverse meanderings theoretically"—Sixteenth-Century Journal

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