Varka ve Gulsah

Images from the Turkish Cultural Foundation

Scenes from the only known illustrated manuscript of the poem, the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah, by Urwa b Huzam al-'Udhri, with paintings by Abd al Mu'min al Khuwayyi.

The early thirteenth-century manuscript of Varqa and Gulshah in the Topkapi Palace Library (Hazine 841) is the unique copy of the Persian poet Ayyuqi's 11th-century romantic poem about a pair of unfortunate lovers. The manuscript - generally held to be a product of early 13th-century Seljuk Anatolia - is also the earliest surviving example of an illustrated book containing a literary Persian text. Based on a story "told by Arabs," the poem was (re-)composed by Ayyuqi in the eastern Iranian world during the Ghaznavid period. The seventy-one paintings constitute a fascinating corpus of images which indicate a particularly rich realm of artistic process and audience expectation.

Links lead to larger versions of pictures on the other pages.

Bazaar at the camp of the Banu Shayba, with (left to right) a jeweller's, a herbalist, a butcher's, and a baker's.



f.10/12a Battle between the Banu Zabba and the Banu Shayba


f.11/13a Rabi ibn Adnan in combat with Banu Shayba.


Gulshah (right) disguised as a man, watches as her lover Varqa (centre) and his rival Rabi fight on horseback.


f.22/21a. Gulshah (right) disguised as a man, takes off her veil for the kidnapper Rabi.
Behind him is her defeated lover Varqa, wounded and bound.



Gulsah savasiyor. Gulshah fighting.






f.33b. Varqa pays a farewell visit to his lover Gulshah before his departure for Yemen. Varka Yemene para bulmaya gidiyor.



The army of Varqa with standard bearer and drummers. Varkanin dayisi Yemen sahi savasi.



f.39/37b. Warqa overthrows a warrior of Aden.


f.45/43a A reception with the king of Sham


f.50/47b The fainting of Warqah learning of the alleged death of Gulshah


f.51/48a They brought Warqah to the tomb of the sheep


f.53/50a Warqah opens the tomb and finds the corpse of the sheep


Sam sahinin yarali Varkayi sarayina goturmesi.
King Sham 'the falcon' takes the wounded Varka to his palace


f.57/55a Warqah on a throne


f.63/61a Scene of farewell


f.67/65b Gulshah finds the tomb of Warqa. Varka mezarda.


f.68/66b Gulshah on the tomb


f.69/68a King of Syria mourns over tombs of Warqa and Gulshah


f.70/69b The visit of the Prophet to the tomb


f.71/70a The Prophet Muhammad, accompanied by the King of Sham and the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, resurrects Varqa and Gulshah from their tomb.


The artist's name 'Abd al-Mu'min b. Muhammad al-Naqqash al-Khuyi occurs as a witness to the endowment deed of the madrasa founded by the Seljuk amir Jalăl al-Din Karatay in 1253-54AD at Konya. The artist's signature is fol.58v of the Warqa wa Gulshăh manuscript. The nisbah al-Kliuyi shows that he was from Khuy, Azerbaijan. (Grube 1966 p .73; Melikian-Chirvani 1970 pp.79-80; Rogers 1986 p.50).
From the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

Varqa wa Gulshah, page 1
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 2
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 3
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 4
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 5
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 6
Varqa wa Gulshah, page 7
Large Coloured Military Illustrations from the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah
Other Large Coloured Illustrations from the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah
Seljuk Illustrations and Articles