Image File  RK210-7


The nomadic and militant Mongols swept across Central Asia, pillaging and conquering. They destroyed Bagdad in 1258, initiating a period of unrest. The Mongols adopted Islam towards the end of the 13th century and established an empire with its capital in Tabriz. Known as Il-Khans --subordinates to the Great Khan, Mongol ruler or China; their dynasty the Ilkhanids. The rulers assembled a brilliant community of scholars and artists. Art continues many Islamic forms, but the direct contacts of the Mongols with the Orient produces a distinctive aesthetic.

Sack of Baghdad by the Mongols illustrated in a late 14th century manuscript of The Compendium of Histories by Rashid al-Din
Painting of the City of Sultaniya from Matrakei Nasuh, Bayan-imanazil

Tabriz, Citadel, Mosque of Alishah, c. 1315.
*Natanz, Shrine of 'Abd al-Samad 1299-1312
Varamin, Congregational Mosque, begun 1322
Yazd, Congregational Mosque, begun 1325; tilework late 14th century
Isfahan, Imamzada Ja'far, 1325
*Mausoleum of Uljaytu, Sultaniya, 1307-17

Stucco mihrab added to the Congregational Mosque at Isfahan

Examples of tilework from architecture

Examples of metalwork, woodworking, pottery.


Monumental Koran manuscripts made for Uljaytu's mausoleum, 1306-13

Epistles of the Sincere Brethren (Rasa'il ikhwan al-safa), Baghdad, 1287
    Author portrait, style continues the Baghdad school, compare Maqamat ms.

Benefits of Animals (Manafi al-hayavan) by Ibn Bakhtishu, 1297 or 1299

Vestiges of the Past (Athar al-baqiya) by Al Biruni, 1307-8

*Compendium of Histories (Jami al-tawarikh) by Rashid al-Din, c. 1315

*Great Mongol (Demotte) Shah Nameh, c. 1335, probably made for Ghiyath al-Din.  Today split up among many different museums.
        Isfandiyar Approaching Gushtasp
        Rustam Shooting an Arrow into Isfandiyar's Eye
        Bringing of Isfandiyar=s Bier
        Rustam Slaying Shaghad
        Alexander Enthroned
        Alexander Fights the Habash Monster
        Alexander's Iron Cavalry
        Alexander Arrives at the Talking Tree
        Picture of the Bier of Alexander
        Bahram Gur Killing a Dragon
        Bahram Gur Fighting a Wolf
        Mihran Sitad Selecting a Chinese Princess
         Ardashir Battling Bahman

Kalila wa Dimna, 1422, cut apart and put into an album for the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp, now in Istanbul.


The Mongol empire split into smaller states, the Jalayirids controlled northwestern Iran and Iraq from 1336-1432. Manuscript painting flourished in Baghdad during the reign of Ahmad Jalayir, when the poetic and lyrical style typical of Persian painting was created.

Mystic Landscape, 14th century

A Princely Couple, c. 1400

*Diwan (Anthology) of Khwaju Kirmani, 1396
        Combat of Humay and Humayun
        Humay on the Day After His Wedding Has Gold Coins Poured Over Him as He Leaves
        Humayun's Room
        Prince Humay at the Gate of Humayun's Castle

Diwan of Sultan Ahman Jalayir, 1403
        Margins contain line drawings in the style made famous by 'Abd al-Hayy (as described
        by Dust Mohammad, an artist and chronicler of the 16th century)

Study Question:  Analyze an illustration from the Great Mongol Shahnameh.  Compare text and image.

Consult O. Grabar and S. Blair, Epic Images and Contemporary History or the
Princeton Shah Nameh Project , a massive web site that contains hundreds of illustrations of the Shah Nameh as well as a translation of the entire huge text (under Warner text).   The New Ilkhanid section includes all the illustrations or the Great Mongol Shah Nameh.