Art as an Image of The Shah

Art, Rhetoric, and Power in Shah Tahmasp’s Letter to Sultan Selim II

Keywords: Safavid Art, Shah Tahmasp, Rhetoric, Saʿadatabad, Shahnama


In 1566, after Sultan Suleiman’s death, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-1576) sent condolences and congratulations to Sultan Selim II (r. 1566-1574) along with several gifts, including a magnificent Quran and an exquisite illustrated Shahnama copy, noteworthy in Iranian art history. However, the letter accompanying these gifts has often been overlooked, perceived as containing mere courtesies.

This letter marked a significant exchange between Safavid kings and Ottoman sultans, with participation from secretaries across Iran. Its authors aimed to portray an idealized king and their notable characteristics, demonstrating that the actions of these rulers (Sultan Suleiman, Sultan Selim, and particularly Shah Tahmasp) aligned with this ideal. Art-related activities were among these characteristics.

The authors detailed the Safavid king’s palace, garden, and the artistic gifts to highlight their connection with the king’s ideal image. This article explores the letter as a literary and artistic medium, delving into its intricate rhetoric as a tool for representing royal authority. Additionally, it addresses how the authors’ descriptions of artworks as integral to the king’s image conveyed political meaning, illustrating how art reflected royal power in public and political spheres.

Author Biography

Amir Maziar, Tehran University of Art

Amir Maziar holds a PhD in Philosophy of Art and is an Assistant Professor at the Tehran University of Art. He is the author of Epistemology in the Islamic Philosophy (2017) and Dream, Metaphor and the Religious Language: Sacred Text as Artistic Text (2021). He published several articles on the history of Islamic art, such as: “New Safavid city, Historical ideas and trends in the construction of Abbasi Isfahan” (2019) and “The place of leisure and recreation in the urban structure of Safavid Isfahan” (2022).

How to Cite
Maziar, A. (2023). Art as an Image of The Shah: Art, Rhetoric, and Power in Shah Tahmasp’s Letter to Sultan Selim II. Manazir Journal, 5, 88–99.