Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
The Final Battle of Gaw and Talhand (painting, recto; text, verso), Illustrated folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Work Type
manuscript folio
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Inju period, 1303-1357
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Ink and watercolors on paper.
36.8 x 29.8 cm (14 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.)
[1st Vente Sevadjian, Paris, 23 November 1960, cat. no. 128], sold; to Edwin Binney, 3rd, California (1961-1986), bequest; to Harvard Art Museums, 2011.

Stored at the San Diego Museum of Art from some time before 1986 until 1991, then at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1991-2011.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museums
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
This illustrated folio belongs to a well known manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi dated to 1341, which is now dispersed. The manuscript was created for the vizier of the Inju governor of Fars. The text is copied with six columns of text and the illustrations are placed mostly as horizontal bands, as here, and sometimes expanded in a stepped format. This folio illustrates the final battle between Gav and Talhand, who were half-brothers from the same mother. When their fathers die, the half-brothers fight for rulership of India. After two battles, the younger brother, Talhand, appears to be defeated by the older one, but the two of them agree to have a final battle. A large ditch is dug around a relatively tight battle ground, so that there is no escape. Mounted on elephants, the two brothers lead their armies. At the end, Talhand dies on his elephant when he sees no escape from the wind, sun, and the endless clash of arms. Gav returns home as victor and to help their mother understand what has happened, he invents the game of chess. The chess board represents the confined space of the battlefield. When a king’s way is blocked and his men have all been defeated, he dies, just like Talhand. The painting depicts the beginning of the battle. The two brothers face one another, mounted on wrinkly-skinned elephants, while soldiers skirmish around them, all against a flat, gold background. The text below the painting describes that section in the story. Other folios from the same manuscript are 1960.192, 1960.194, 1960.195, and 2002.50.12.
Exhibition History

Word and Image in Persian Painting, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 03/30/2013

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/26/2017 - 11/08/2017

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at