© Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Name of Object:

The Nightmare of Zahhak. Miniature from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp


Doha, Qatar

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art


Hegira 10th century / AD first half of 16th century

Type of object:


Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Opaque Watercolour, Gold, Paper, Ink


Height: 47.2cm, Width: 32.1cm

Period / Dynasty:



Iran, Tabriz


This illustration is from the famous Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp I (r.1524-1576 AD). The particular scene shows an episode in the life of the evil king Zahhak. After making a deal with the devil to usurp the throne from his father, Zahhak was cursed with two serpents that grew from his shoulders and fed on human brains. In the scene, a distressed perspective of the architecture reflects his frightened state of mind.

Selected bibliography:

Chekhab-Abudaya, Mounia and Tugwell, Julia, Imperial Threads: Motifs and Artisans from Turkey, Iran and India, Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2017.
Soueif, Ahdaf, Reflections on Islamic Art, Doha: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2011.
Watson, Oliver, Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2008.

Citation of this web page:

 "The Nightmare of Zahhak. Miniature from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp" in Explore Islamic Art Collections , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;EPM;qt;Mus21;19;en&id=paintings

MWNF Working Number: QT 19

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 Artistic Introduction

Islamic Dynasties / Period

On display in

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