Height: 97.800 cm
Width: 43.900 cm
Gift of M. Hakim
ME OA 1952.11-12.1
Room 34: The Islamic world
Limestone relief panel, showing Kai Khosrau
From Iran, around AD 1850
Revival of ancient Iranian history and culture
Kai Khosrau sits on a throne, under a canopy inscribed with verses of Persian poetry. He is wearing both a dagger and a curved sword, and appears to wear armour on his lower arms and around his shoulders. A small incense-burner stands on the floor. The relief is part of a larger frieze, as can be seen by the extended arm of an unseen servant to the right, holding a fly whisk. Traces of different pigments show that the relief was originally painted.
Kai Khosrau was a Sasanian king of Iran in pre-Islamic times. His legendary exploits are described in the national epic of Iran, the Shahnama ('Book of Kings') written in the eleventh century by the poet Firdausi.
This panel was carved in the nineteenth century, when there was a revival of pre-Islamic Iranian culture, as the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925) tried to evoke a magnificent past to which it could lay claim. The dynasty consciously imitated the monumental rock relief throne-scenes of the ancient Achaemenids (550-331 BC) and Sasanians (221-642) by commissioning versions at sites nearby that featured Qajar monarchs and princes instead. The Qajars even tried to surpass their ancient predecessors; Fath cAli Khan Saba, the court poet of Fath cAli Shah (reigned 1798-1834) composed the Shahanshahnama ('Book of the King of Kings'), which directly identified Qajar rulers with the kings and heroes of the Shahnama.
L. Diba (ed.), Royal Persian paintings: the Q (Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, London, 1998)