Two Gazelles and Two Mountain Rams

UnknownLate 1290s

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum
New York, United States

Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān (The Benefits of Animals) ranked among the ten greatest Persian manuscripts, dates from the reign of Ghazan Khan (1295–1304), the Mongol ruler who ordered a Persian translation of the book. The Mongol invasion, culminating in the conquest of Baghdad, brought a new, Chinese naturalist style to Persian art. The text discusses the nature and medicinal properties of humans, animals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. On the right, two gazelles run in front of a steep, rocky mountainside, kicking up dust (derived from a misunderstood misty landscape model), while on the left two mountain rams fight on a fanciful Chinese-style bridge composed of colored rocks, with gold clouds in the sky.

The manuscript was made at Maragha (south of Tabriz), a center of learning. It was there that Hulagu Khan (r. 1217–1265) built the famous observatory for Nasīr al-Dīn al-Ṭusī, the famous scholar and astronomer.


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