A Saljuq Mināʾi beaker, Kashan, Iran, late 12th century.

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This celebrated beaker is the only known object from the Islamic world that is illustrated with a complete narrative cycle from the Shahnama, the Persian Book of Kings. Organized in horizontal bands, the small but highly detailed images recount the adventures of Bizhan and Manizha, beginning with Firdawsi's beloved telling the story. The climax in the narrative appears in the lower register and depicts Rustam rescuing Bizhan from the pit where he has been imprisoned by the Turanian king Afrasiyab, Manizha's evil father. This pictorial cycle predates any other depictions of the Bizhan and Manizha romance by some one hundred years.

It is interesting to note that the adventures of the two lovers appear on a drinking cup, a vessel of particular ritual significance in royal banquets during the ancient and Islamic periods.

Held by the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
A view of the beaker from another angle



Another Saljuq Mināʾi beaker, late 12th century
Seljuk Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers