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Death of Musa (Moses)
Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)
Iran (Tabriz), A.H. 714/A.D. 1314–15
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London (MSS 727, folio 294b)
Cat. 7
© Nour Foundation

Death of Musa Death of Musa
Death of Musa

Jami' al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)
Ghazan (reigned 1295-1304), the seventh ruler of the Ilkhanid dynasty and the first to convert to Islam, commissioned his vizier, Rashid al-Din (1247-1318), to write the history of the Mongols. During the reign of Ghazan's brother and successor, Öljeitü (reigned 1304-16), this text-known as Jami' al-tavarikh, or Compendium of Chronicles-developed into the earliest account of world history. The pages from the Arabic version here come from the earliest-known copy of this chronicle, completed in 1314-15 and made under the author's supervision.

This manuscript initially comprised four volumes. Only the second half of the second volume survives, narrating the history of the ancient Iranian and Arabian kings, the prophet Muhammad and the caliphs, the Jews, the noncaliphal rulers of Iran and Asia Minor, the Franks, the Indians, and the Chinese. The Edinburgh University Library and Nasser D. Khalili Collection manuscripts make up this section of the second volume.

The two contain more than 200 folios, with 110 illustrations and 80 portraits of Chinese emperors and their attendants. The paintings draw upon a wide range of sources including pre-Mongol Persian and Arabic texts, Chinese scrolls and woodblock illustrations, Byzantine manuscripts, and Crusader painting in the French Gothic style. Perhaps most significantly, in the illustrations from this section of the Compendium of Chronicles, the non-Mongols are recast with the characteristic features and costumes of Mongols, thereby in a sense uniting all of world history with that of the Mongols.

A scene from the Jami' al-tavarikh's history of the Jews, the illustration of Musa's death is, like the other paintings in this manuscript, composed from a pastiche of stylistic and iconographic influences.

  Death of Musa
Death of Musa

Moses (Musa) lies upon a rocky bed that represents Mount Nebo in Transjordan, the final resting place of the Old Testament prophet (Deut. 34:1-12). Moses' pose is derived from deathbed scenes in Byzantine manuscripts.
  Death of Musa

The landscape of Mount Nebo, where Moses delivered his final sermon, is rendered as a series of spiky triangulations reminiscent of Chinese landscape paintings.

  Death of Musa

Sequestered in the other half of the composition stands a group of Moses' followers. The figures wear Arab-style robes with tiraz (an embroidered band of writing).

  Death of Musa

The one who wears a scale pattern robe and points toward the Prophet probably represents Yushua (Joshua), Moses' succesor.

Death of Musa
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