This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
The late Safavid interest in early Safavid history is a phenomenon that we are only beginning to understand. Three illustrated manuscripts of the historical romances known collectively as ‘Âlamârâ-yi Safavi provide an interesting angle from which to approach it. The Jahângushâ-yi Khâqân (formerly known as the “Ross Anonymous”) in the British Library, the Târikh-i jahânârâ-yi Shâh Ismâ’il in the Chester Beatty Library, and a semi-dispersed manuscript now in Tehran’s Reza Abbasi Museum all contain stories about the life and derring-do of Shah Isma’il I and his Qizilbash companions, stories that are clearly related but whose precise origin, evolution, and recension present difficulties. Moreover, all three manuscripts are illustrated, and the colophon of one even appears to suggest that it was made for Shah Sulayman (r. 1666–1694) himself. The appearance of three illustrated versions of the “Anonymous Tales” of the founder of the Safavid dynasty in or around the late 1670s or 1680s is remarkable, and attests to a lively interest not only in the early history of the dynasty, but in a particular version of that history which emphasizes Hollywood-style action and heroics over the dry niceties of historical fact. This paper will examine some of the salient features of these manuscripts as they serve as a window on the late Safavid mental landscape. These include the relation of the texts to oral storytelling (naqqâli), the nature of the values being projected back onto the past, and the different styles of the paintings in these manuscripts, which point to the diverse and evolving visual culture of late seventeenth-century Iran.