Dancers & musicians in the Shahnama

This is a folio sheet from the Shahnama, a poem written by Hakīm Abu’l-Qāsim Ferdowsī Tūsī in the 11th century. However, this particular illumination was done in the Safavid period, between the years 1520-1530 C.E. The picture is 30.8 cm by 18.0 cm, in opaque watercolours. The page is in the Freer & Sackler Museum.

The one of the legends of the Shahnama is of Bahram Gur. The picture is the daughters of Barzin dancing for Bahram Gur. The dancer has possibly a belt in her left hand and an instrument slung over her body. The second dancer is possibly clapping. The instruments being played are a large tambour and a chang (or harp) player.

Princeton University has a Shahnama Project, where thumbnails of the Shahnama is able to be viewed.
Recommended reading
The Persian Book of Kings: An Epitome of the Shahnama of Firdawsi translated by Basil William Robinson. Via Google Books.
History of the Chang by the Farabi School.
Traditional Iranian Music by the Toos Foundation.
Dance- Raqs written by A. Shapur Shahbazi & Robyn C. Friend. From Encyclopædia Iranica.
Research and Reconstruction of an Ancient Persian Harp from the International Art & Architecture Research Association.

A flask with a Persian dancer


This is a flask with a flattened body, thought to have been made in the early 17th century. Made in Isfahan, Iran out of siliceous clay paste ware, molded decoration under a coloured glaze, it has a height of 22.5 cm. One side has a dancer with a seated man, on the other side is a female tambourine player. Both are set in a garden. The detail of the dancing scene-

It is currently in the Louvre.

Late Persian dancer and musician


This is a white earthenware plate, known as Kubachi ware. This style was done during the Safavid period. Thought to have been done in the 1550s. It features a seated musician wearing a Safavid taj (see the links below) and a dancer playing castinets.

The plate is currently in the Victoria & Albert Museum

If interested, this pdf document by Master Safi al-Khansaa, known mundanely as Heather Stiles can be read here, covering men’s Safavid head wear. Via Google Docs. The one for women’s head wear can be found here. They are notes from the Persian University held at Pennsic War a few years ago.