Kaiumers, the First King of the World
Unknown artist, Iranian
Kaiumers, the First King of the World, mid 1600s
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
23 x 14 cm (9 1/8 x 5 1/2 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 17.447
This sheet is taken from a 17th-century copy of the Shahnama, an epic poem that tells the history of Iran. At center, it shows Kaiumers, Persia’s first ruler, known for his sense of justice and his communion with nature. He appears clad in his signature leopard skin and surrounded by the various followers—both man and beast—who rallied to support him in times of war.
In addition to providing a historical narrative, the Shahnama was meant to serve as a manual of conduct and to offer examples of effective rule. Lavish, richly illustrated editions of the book were commissioned by new Persian kings upon assuming the throne.