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Illustrations from the manuscript of the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah, c1250.

Warqa wa Gulshah, Varqa u Gulshah, Varka ve Gülţah'ta, Varqa o Golšăh, Le Roman de "Varqe et Golsah."
Scenes from the only known illustrated manuscript of the poem, the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah, by Urwa b Huzam al-'Udhri, with paintings by Abd al Mu'min al Khuwayyi.

The early thirteenth-century manuscript of Varqa and Gulshah in the Topkapi Palace Library (Hazine 841) is the unique copy of the Persian poet Ayyuqi's 11th-century romantic poem about a pair of unfortunate lovers. The manuscript - generally held to be a product of early 13th-century Seljuk Anatolia - is also the earliest surviving example of an illustrated book containing a literary Persian text. Based on a story "told by Arabs," the poem was (re-)composed by Ayyuqi in the eastern Iranian world during the Ghaznavid period. The seventy-one paintings constitute a fascinating corpus of images which indicate a particularly rich realm of artistic process and audience expectation.

A summary of the story of Varqa and Gulshah

Click on the pictures for a larger image.

f.21/20b. Warka taken prisoner by Rabi‘

f.22/21a. Gulshah uncovers her face; facing Rabi‘ on the horse, behind him Varqa, half naked and bound.

f.23/22a. Gulshah kills Ibn ‘Adnan, saves Varqa.

f.24/23b. Gulshah kills the son of Rabi‘.

f.25/24b: The struggle of Gulshah with Ghalib, the other son of Rabi‘

f.26/25b. Gulshah struggles with Ghalib, on foot

f.27/26b. The entrance of Varqa into the enemy encampment to save Gulshah

f.28/27a. Ghalib seated on a throne, Gulshah if before him, Varqa is outside

f.29/28a. Varqa cuts off the head of Ghalib

f.30, 29b: Varqa on a throne with his slave

The artist's name 'Abd al-Mu'min b. Muhammad al-Naqqash al-Khuyi occurs as a witness to the endowment deed of the madrasa founded by the Seljuk amir Jalăl al-Din Karatay in 1253-54AD at Konya. The artist's signature is fol.58v of the Warqa wa Gulshăh manuscript. The nisbah al-Kliuyi shows that he was from Khuy, Azerbaijan. (Grube 1966 p .73; Melikian-Chirvani 1970 pp.79-80; Rogers 1986 p.50).
From the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

Varqa wa Gulshah, page 1
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 2
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 4
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 5
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 6
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 7

Large Coloured Military Illustrations from the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah
Other Large Coloured Illustrations from the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah
Small Coloured Illustrations of Varka ve Gulsah from the Turkish Cultural Foundation

Seljuk Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers