Nushirvan and the Owls, from Nizami’s Treasury of Secrets (Makhazan al-Asrar) Artist: Unknown

ca. 1550

Asian Art

Before the invention of paper, all around the world stories were painted and etched onto walls, inscribed on stone and metal, and drawn on cloth, hide, and palm leaves. This wide range of media points to the universal importance and pleasure of transmitting and consuming stories in visual form. As stories began to appear on paper, they occasionally bore traces of their previous supports. For example, in this painting of a scene from the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami’s Treasury of Secrets, the striations in the background create a texture reminiscent of a textile, and the highly stylized white clouds resemble embroidery


Opaque watercolor and ink on paper


without mounting: 4 15/16 × 4 3/16 in. (12.5 × 10.7 cm)
with mounting: 12 5/8 × 7 7/8 in. (32 × 20 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mary Burns Foss

Accession Number



Safavid dynasty (1501–1722)


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Sale Sevadjian, Paris, France, possibly 1927. Acquired by Emile Tabbagh (1879–1933) Collection, Paris, France, New York; sale Tabbagh estate, Anderson Gallery, New York, Jan 3-4, 1936 lot 37; Mary Burns Foss (Mrs. Wilson P. Foss Jr.,1896–1987); given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1983
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

histories (visual works), manuscript



Technical metadata and APIs


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