Langue :

Titre :

Shahnama manuscript of 1654, Vol 1, illustrated by Mu'in Mussavir

Niveau : Pièce  / Cote : AKM00274

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 :
Aga Khan Museum

Types de notice :

  • Manuscrit

Etablissement :

Aga Khan Museum (Genève, SUISSE)

Langue :

Anglais

Langue matérielle 1 :

Persan

Date :

  • Period/Dynasty:Safavid - `Abbas II (r.1642-1666)

Description physique :

H x W x D (cm) : 38.5 x 24 x 7
Text H x W (cm) : 25.5 x 12.5
Page H x W (cm) : 37.9 x 23.5
Framed Area H x W (cm) : 26.6 x 13.6
Mount H x W x D (cm) : 41.5 x 26.8 x 9.2

Description du contenu :

(see Moya Carey's txt below)
Description:
Codex of iii+243+iv folios (37.9 x 23.5cm) with 29 paintings and early 19thC Indian leather binding.
Volume 1 of 2-volume Shahnama manuscript, dated Jumada al-Akhra 1064H (April-May 1654), 27 paintings signed by Mu'in Musavvir
Folios: 4 gold-ruled text-columns of 25 lines nasta`liq (25.5x12.5cm) in black on gold-sprinkled paper, with ruled gold and blue frames (26.6x13.6cm). Headings in red or white nasta`liq on gold text-boxes.
Binding: early 19thC Indian red-brown leather, with central gilt stamped panel of medallion, floral scrolls, and cloud-bands, framing foliate scroll painted in light brown outer gilt band of stamped floral design; doublure medallions and corner-pieces painted in light brown with cursory floral design. Spine inscribed in gold: "Heroick Poems of Persia by Ferdosi".
Fol.1v-2r: double frontispiece painting: on the right, a queen speaks with a sage at her court; on the left: a prince receives a princess at his court (both signed Mu'in 1067H),
3r-4v: double frontispiece (introducing the Preface): uninscribed illuminated gold cartouche + 13 lines nasta`liq in black reserved against gold cross-hatching with flanking panels of loose floral scrolls + uninscribed illuminated gold cartouche, with surrounding illumination;
7v-8r: double frontispiece (introducing the Shahnama): uninscribed gold cartouche in illuminated text-box + 14 lines nasta`liq in black reserved against gold cross-hatching with flanking illuminated panels of floral scrolls and cartouches + uninscribed gold cartouche in illuminated text-box, with surrounding illumination;
10v: Court of Gayumars; 12v: Tahmurath's army fight the demons; 19v: Faridun strikes Zahhak with his ox-head mace; 29r: Minuchihr spears Tur; 45r: Zal and Mihrab travel to visit Sam (signed Mu'in 1065H); 52v: Shah Naudar is brought before Afrasiyab; 64r: Rustam kills the White Div; 67r: the king of Mazandaran is executed; 78v: Kai Kavus receives Rustam (signed Mu'in); 84r: Rustam kills Suhrab (signed Mu'in); 86r: Tahmina mourns her son Suhrab (signed Mu'in); 89r: Sudabah tempts Siyavush (signed Mu'in); 92v: Siyavush rides through the flames (signed Mu'in); 104r: marriage of Siyavush and Firangis (signed Mu'in); 112v: execution of Siyavush (signed Mu'in); 118r: Rustam lances Afrasiyab (signed Mu'in); 130v: Rustam and the Iranians pay homage to Kai Kavus (signed Mu'in); 133r: Kai Khusrau's army marches to Turan; 141r: Bizhan defeats Palashan; 152r: marriage of Fariburz and Firangis (signed Mu'in 1065H); 158v: Rustam shoots Ashkabus (signed Mu'in); 164r: Rustam fights Paladwand and his demons (signed Mu'in); 177v: Rustam rescues Bizhan from the pit (signed Mu'in); 189r: Bizhan kills Human (signed Mu'in 1065); 200r: Fariburz kills Kulbad (signed Mu'in); 202v: Gudarz fights Piran on a mountain (signed Mu'in); 206v: prisoners and heads brought before Kai Khusrau (signed Mu'in Shawwal 1065H); 215v: Kai Khusrau kills Shida; 233r: (later Indian addition) Kai Khusrau executes Afrasiyab and Farsiwaz; 243r: colophon.

Moya Carey: text for Digital screen, Berlin 2010

1654 Shahnama
Dated 29th Jumada II 1064H (16th May 1654)
Safavid Isfahan, Iran
AKM274

Published:

Dated May 1654, this fine codex is the first of a two-volume copy of Firdausi’s Shahnama, richly illustrated by Mu`in Musavvir, a prolific artist of 17th-century Isfahan. The second volume is dated to the month of Muharram in 1066H (November 1655), and is in the collection of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Mu`in Musavvir produced artwork from the 1630s to the 1690s, all apparently in Isfahan, the capital of Safavid Iran. He was trained by the renowned painter Reza `Abbasi (d.1635), who had completely dominated the Safavid visual mode in the early 17th century. Shortly before Reza died, Mu`in painted a (now lost) portrait of his famous elderly master, working on a painting in his classic genre – a single-page painting of a lone figure. In 1673, Mu`in produced another version of the portrait (which survives today), apparently at the request of his son Muhammad Nasir. As the century progressed and other Indian and European vogues were becoming current in Safavid art, unswervingly Mu`in continued to work in Reza’s by then rather traditional style. A considerable corpus survives of Mu`in, including single-page drawings and illustrated manuscripts, lacquered pen -boxes, and apparently also designs for silk textiles.

It seems that Mu`in Musavvir did not work for royal Safavid patrons, at least no such work has survived, and he is not mentioned in the written sources. He did have at least two Safavid courtiers as portrait-sitters though, Mirza Muhammad Baqir with his son, and the royal physician Hakim Shafa`i. Most of our knowledge of him comes from his great quantity of surviving works, which are usually signed and dated with meticulous care. These reveal a career of sixty odd years in length. The attentive inscriptions bespeak the importance of Mu`in’s personal contribution to individual works (within a manuscript, or on individual drawings): perhaps patrons or prospective buyers wished to identify a named artist’s hand because this lent the works both art-historical worth and financial value. Calligraphers aside, the collective teamwork required of illustrated manuscript-production would not necessarily reveal an individual’s hand. In this 1654 Shahnama, Mu`in’s signature is a near-constant feature set below each painting or within the composition, such as the musicians’ tambourines in the doublepage frontispiece. Inscriptions might also give further information regarding the precise location and circumstances of the work’s production. For example, a series of three drawings made during February 1672 relates to a recent shocking event at the Safavid court, when a diplomatic gift for the royal menagerie went out of control Other brief inscriptions often offer interesting contextual segments about Mu`in’s life: drawn in the lane of the lining weavers, done in haste for his son Aqa Zaman, and done at the house of my dear and venerable friend Shafi.

These are not the only copy of Firdausi’s Book of Kings which Mu`in is thought to have illustrated: he also produced a similar two-volume set dated 1058-59H (1648-49) , a c.1650-60 manuscript , a dispersed copy dated 1077H (1666-67) , and a c.1693-98 copy jointly-illustrated with his student Fazl `Ali Robinson also attributes an earlier copy dateable c.1630-40

1654 Shahnama
Dated 29th Jumada II 1064H (16th May 1654)
Safavid Isfahan, Iran
AKM274

On the Final Page:
DID YOU NOTICE THE…
Orange demon holding a tree trunk in his hand?
Musicians riding on elephants?
Evil king with snakes growing from his shoulders?
Tigerskin trousers?
white demon’s severed leg?
4 female musicians?
Waterspout in the shape of a golden peacock?
Hero wrestling with a golden demon?

1.
1v-2r A Princely Court
This beautiful double frontispiece depicts a lively court scene, with an enthroned young king on the lefthand page, and a queen on the right. Musicians play, attendants serve food and drink in vessels of gold and porcelain, and an elegant fountain-head in the shape of a trumpeter plays into the water-pool. The palace is decorated with landscape murals and tile panelling, and gardens are visible beyond. Although the two paintings imply a common space, the male and female apartments are separately determined. On the left, the king receives a crown from three female visitors, while on the right, the queen and her companions receive an elderly male visitor. The frontispiece painting does not usually illustrate the literary text which is to follow, rather it evokes the princely environment of the luxury book itself, in its contemporary context. This double-page scene refers to the court fashions and taste of 17th century Safavid Isfahan, where the manuscript was produced for an unknown patron.

2.
10v The Court of Gayumars
The Book of Kings describes the eventful reigns of 50 monarchs of ancient Iran, starting with the first king Gayumars who ruled at the dawn of history. This was a period of peaceful utopia, when mankind lived in harmony with animals. Nonetheless, Gayumars and his courtiers are all wearing animal fur as clothing: snow leopard and tigerskin robes, jackets and trousers. One man at the bottom left appears to be wearing black and white cowskin, and is attracting attention. The court’s headgear, however, is the height of fashion for 1654, the date of this manuscript.

3.
12v Tahmurath fights the army of demons
The great-grandson of Gayumars was Tahmurath From the start, the kings of Iran had to contend with the jealous hostility of Ahriman, or Satan, and his armies of divs, or demons. Here, Tahmurath and his forces rout the demon host, charging against a comical group of brightly-coloured horned and spotted monsters with expressive caricatured faces. The king deals a mighty blow to a blue div with his mace, while further divs watch dolefully from the horizon. Following this defeat, the captured demons agree to teach the art of writing to mankind.

4.
19v Faridun defeats Zahhak
The evil tyrant Zahhak had ruled Iran with great cruelty for a thousand years. Furthermore, the devil had cursed him with two snakes which sprouted from his shoulders and had to be fed with human brains every day – which imposed misery on the people of Iran. Finally the young hero Faridun challenged the usurper. Zahhak had long known that Faridun was destined to topple him, because a premonition had come to him in a nightmare many years before. Having occupied Zahhak’s palace and freed the two Iranian princesses held there (depicted upstairs on the left), Faridun lured the evil king back and met him in combat, striking him down with his ox-headed mace. Nonetheless, as advised by the angel Surush, Faridun allowed Zahhak to live a little longer, sentencing him to hang enchained within Mount Damavand as a fitting punishment.

5.
29r Manuchihr defeats Tur, avenging his father’s murder
Salm and Tur were jealous of their father Faridun’s love for their brother Iraj, and so together they murdered Iraj. Having fled Iran, the two exiled brothers learned that their brother’s son Manuchihr had grown into a strong and noble warrior, and was well-beloved of his grandfather Faridun. They sent a deceitful message to Faridun’s court, inviting Manuchihr to meet with them, to accept compensation for their fratricide. Unfooled, Faridun sent Manuchihr at the head of a great army, and met the brothers in battle. Manuchihr fought his uncle Tur in a night attack and speared him through, finally avenging his father’s murder.

6.
45r Zal and Mihrab travel to visit Zal’s father Sam
Zal, a young nobleman of Iran, has fallen in love with the beautiful Rudaba, daughter of Mihrab, the pagan king of Kabul. News of their union did not go down well with either side: the Iranians disliked Rudaba’s descent from the demonic tyrant Zahhak, while her family feared a punitive attack from Shah Manuchihr, the king of Iran. They also felt distaste for Zal’s unusual upbringing and appearance: born an albino, white-haired Zal had been abandoned as an infant by his father Sam, and was reared in the wilderness by the magical simurgh bird, before reconciliation with his repentant father. In the course of protracted consultations about the couple, astrologers revealed that Zal and Rudaba were destined to produce a son of tremendous valour and strength. After much negotiation, the marriage was approved, to the great joy of the young pair – the future parents of Rustam, Iran’s greatest hero.

7.
64r Rustam kills the White Div
The hero Rustam was on a mission to rescue king Kay Kavus and the rest of the Iranian army, held hostage by demonic enemies in Mazandaran. In order to reach this territory, he and his horse Rakhsh had to undergo seven trials along a difficult route beset with monsters. Capturing a local landowner (shown here tied to a tree to prevent his escape), Rustam forced his prisoner to disclose the whereabouts of the fearsome White Div, whose army of demons had so compromised the Iranian forces. Magically struck down with blindness, the Iranian hostages could only be cured with the blood of the White Div himself. Bravely, Rustam entered the demon’s cave and the pair did ferocious and gruesome battle until finally Rustam was the victor.

8.
78v Kay Kavus receives Rustam at his court
Rustam, Iran’s greatest champion, has achieved great things on behalf of Shah Kay Kavus, who has been an impetuous and gullible as a ruler. On command, loyal Rustam defeats monsters and demons, fights fierce duels, and rescues his comrades from enemy territory. Here, the hero stands obediently by the throne, ready to receive orders from the king.

9.
84r Rustam kills Suhrab
The tragedy of Rustam and Suhrab is the most bitter episode of the Book of Kings. Long after an affair with the seductive princess Tahmina, Rustam is unaware that Tahmina has given birth to his son. She prepares the youth to be a warrior, and sure enough Suhrab shows all the promise of his great father. Before Suhrab leaves to seek out Rustam, Tahmina gives him an amulet which she had received from Rustam, and the young man heads off to Iran. Fate conspires that neither Rustam nor Suhrab realise that they are father and son. Suhrab duly meets, challenges and fights Rustam in a protracted single combat, each entirely unaware of their family connection. Having finally defeated the young man, Rustam is horrified to find the familiar amulet on the youth’s dying body, and too late realises his young opponent’s identity.

10.
86r Tahmina mourns her son Suhrab
Distraught, Princess Tahmina of Samangan has recovered the body of her son Suhrab, who died fighting a tragic duel against the Iranian hero Rustam without realising that Rustam was his own father. Tahmina and the women of the court grieve over the young man, tearing miserably at their hair, while Suhrab’s body still wears the amulet armband worn by the youth to prove his lineage. Tahmina and Rustam had been married only a brief while, when Rustam passed through the court of Samangan on a mission to recover Rakhsh, his lost horse.

11.
89r Sudaba tries to seduce Siyavush
Siyavush was handsome and noble, the pride of his father Shah Kay Kavus of Iran. The young prince was educated in the arts of war by none other than the hero Rustam, but when he finally returned to his father’s court, he received improper attentions from his stepmother Sudaba. Inviting the young man into the royal harem, Sudaba tried repeatedly to seduce Siyavush – this charming scene shows the delights of the women’s quarters with music, wine and company - but to no avail. Bitterly offended, Sudaba plotted revenge.

12.
92v The fire ordeal of Siyavush
Without foundation, Kay Kavus’s wife Sudaba accused her stepson Siyavush of attacking her and causing a miscarriage. This was revenge for the young man’s indifference to her secret attempts at seduction. Siyavush agreed to a trial by fire, to the dismay of his much-conflicted father Kay Kavus. To general astonishment, the innocent Siyavush galloped his horse through a fiery furnace, and both emerged completely unharmed. His innocence proven by this divine miracle, Siyavush was restored to his father’s favour. Kay Kavus could not bring himself to execute deceitful Sudaba though, and she remained in the palace, still plotting against Siyavush.

13.
104r Siyavush marries Firangis
Queen Sudaba continued to poison her husband’s opinion of his son Siyavush. Having finally fallen out with Kay Kavus, Siyavush sought exile at the Turanian court of king Afrasiyab, the Iranians’ traditional enemy. Allying Turan with the future shah of Iran, Afrasiyab arranged for Siyavush to marry his daughter Firangis, thus cleverly intending a further alliance between the two great countries. The happy couple sit on a throne together, entertained and attended by the palace women. Eventually, innocent Siyavush is executed on Afrasiyab’s orders, but Firangis bears him a son who is destined to rule both Iran and Turan – as Shah Kay Khusrau.

14.
118r Rustam lances Alkus in the fray
Rustam and seven Iranian heroes ride boldly into Turan, to Afrasiyab’s hunting-grounds, accompanied by their troops. Soon enough, Afrasiyab leads an army to repel the trespassers, and battle ensues between the various champions. The invincible Rustam unhorses and kills the Turanian champion Alkus, to the dismay of Afrasiyab who escapes.

15.
130v Rustam and the Iranians pay homage to Kay Khusrau
Kay Khusrau became the Shah of Iran when he completed the impossible challenge of sacking the fortress of Bahman, where other princes of royal descent had failed. The reigning king, Shah Kay Kavus gracefully abdicated in favour of the young hero, and here the Iranian nobility acknowledge their new ruler. Kay Khusrau’s success is indicative that he possesses the divinely-ordained royal charismatic quality of farr. He is also the son of Siyavush, the innocent Iranian prince murdered on the orders of Afrasiyab of Turan. This terrible deed was the eventual basis for protracted war between Iran and Turan.

16.
133r Kay Khusrau’s army marches to Turan
Once again, the mighty armies of Iran prepare for battle, against their perennial enemies, the neighbouring Turanians. King Kay Khusrau is enthroned upon a majestic white elephant, reviewing his troops. The Iranian champions on horseback bow their heads to their shah, with pennants fluttering gaily from their lances, ready for battle. The ox-headed mace held by Kay Khusrau is associated with Faridun, the shah’s ancestor.Following many long years of warfare with the wily Turanian king Afrasiyab, Kay Khusrau is finally and conclusively victorious over his enemy, but this victory does not ultimately bring contentment: Kay Khusrau’s great military successes cause him to withdraw from the world rather than embrace it. Depicted here at the height of his power, this ambitious king will eventually abandon worldly pursuits for spiritual concerns, to the baffled confusion of the military heroes at his court.

17.
141r Bizhan snatches the crown from Tazhav’s head
Sent into Turan on a revenge mission by Shah Kay (see Moya Carey's txt below)
Description:
Codex of iii+243+iv folios (37.9 x 23.5cm) with 29 paintings and early 19thC Indian leather binding.
Volume 1 of 2-volume Shahnama manuscript, dated Jumada al-Akhra 1064H (April-May 1654), 27 paintings signed by Mu'in Musavvir
Folios: 4 gold-ruled text-columns of 25 lines nasta`liq (25.5x12.5cm) in black on gold-sprinkled paper, with ruled gold and blue frames (26.6x13.6cm). Headings in red or white nasta`liq on gold text-boxes.
Binding: early 19thC Indian red-brown leather, with central gilt stamped panel of medallion, floral scrolls, and cloud-bands, framing foliate scroll painted in light brown, outer gilt band of stamped floral design; doublure medallions and corner-pieces painted in light brown with cursory floral design. Spine inscribed in gold: "Heroick Poems of Persia by Ferdosi".
Fol.1v-2r: double frontispiece painting: on the right, a queen speaks with a sage at her court; on the left: a prince receives a princess at his court (both signed Mu'in 1067H),
3r-4v: double frontispiece (introducing the Preface): uninscribed illuminated gold cartouche + 13 lines nasta`liq in black reserved against gold cross-hatching with flanking panels of loose floral scrolls + uninscribed illuminated gold cartouche, with surrounding illumination;
7v-8r: double frontispiece (introducing the Shahnama): uninscribed gold cartouche in illuminated text-box + 14 lines nasta`liq in black reserved against gold cross-hatching with flanking illuminated panels of floral scrolls and cartouches + uninscribed gold cartouche in illuminated text-box, with surrounding illumination;
10v: Court of Gayumars; 12v: Tahmurath's army fight the demons; 19v: Faridun strikes Zahhak with his ox-head mace; 29r: Minuchihr spears Tur; 45r: Zal and Mihrab travel to visit Sam (signed Mu'in 1065H); 52v: Shah Naudar is brought before Afrasiyab; 64r: Rustam kills the White Div; 67r: the king of Mazandaran is executed; 78v: Kai Kavus receives Rustam (signed Mu'in); 84r: Rustam kills Suhrab (signed Mu'in); 86r: Tahmina mourns her son Suhrab (signed Mu'in); 89r: Sudabah tempts Siyavush (signed Mu'in); 92v: Siyavush rides through the flames (signed Mu'in); 104r: marriage of Siyavush and Firangis (signed Mu'in); 112v: execution of Siyavush (signed Mu'in); 118r: Rustam lances Afrasiyab (signed Mu'in); 130v: Rustam and the Iranians pay homage to Kai Kavus (signed Mu'in); 133r: Kai Khusrau's army marches to Turan; 141r: Bizhan defeats Palashan; 152r: marriage of Fariburz and Firangis (signed Mu'in 1065H); 158v: Rustam shoots Ashkabus (signed Mu'in); 164r: Rustam fights Paladwand and his demons (signed Mu'in); 177v: Rustam rescues Bizhan from the pit (signed Mu'in); 189r: Bizhan kills Human (signed Mu'in 1065); 200r: Fariburz kills Kulbad (signed Mu'in); 202v: Gudarz fights Piran on a mountain (signed Mu'in); 206v: prisoners and heads brought before Kai Khusrau (signed Mu'in Shawwal 1065H); 215v: Kai Khusrau kills Shida; 233r: (later Indian addition) Kai Khusrau executes Afrasiyab and Farsiwaz; 243r: colophon.

Moya Carey: text for Digital screen, Berlin 2010

1654 Shahnama
Dated 29th Jumada II 1064H (16th May 1654)
Safavid Isfahan, Iran
AKM274

Published:

Dated May 1654, this fine codex is the first of a two-volume copy of Firdausi’s Shahnama, richly illustrated by Mu`in Musavvir, a prolific artist of 17th-century Isfahan. The second volume is dated to the month of Muharram in 1066H (November 1655), and is in the collection of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Mu`in Musavvir produced artwork from the 1630s to the 1690s, all apparently in Isfahan, the capital of Safavid Iran. He was trained by the renowned painter Reza `Abbasi (d.1635), who had completely dominated the Safavid visual mode in the early 17th century. Shortly before Reza died, Mu`in painted a (now lost) portrait of his famous elderly master, working on a painting in his classic genre – a single-page painting of a lone figure. In 1673, Mu`in produced another version of the portrait (which survives today), apparently at the request of his son Muhammad Nasir. As the century progressed and other Indian and European vogues were becoming current in Safavid art, unswervingly Mu`in continued to work in Reza’s by then rather traditional style. A considerable corpus survives of Mu`in, including single-page drawings and illustrated manuscripts, lacquered pen-boxes, and apparently also designs for silk textiles.

It seems that Mu`in Musavvir did not work for royal Safavid patrons, at least no such work has survived, and he is not mentioned in the written sources. He did have at least two Safavid courtiers as portrait-sitters though, Mirza Muhammad Baqir with his son, and the royal physician Hakim Shafa`i. Most of our knowledge of him comes from his great quantity of surviving works, which are usually signed and dated with meticulous care. These reveal a career of sixty odd years in length. The attentive inscriptions bespeak the importance of Mu`in’s personal contribution to individual works (within a manuscript, or on individual drawings): perhaps patrons or prospective buyers wished to identify a named artist’s hand because this lent the works both art-historical worth and financial value. Calligraphers aside, the collective teamwork required of illustrated manuscript-production would not necessarily reveal an individual’s hand. In this 1654 Shahnama, Mu`in’s signature is a near-constant feature set below each painting or within the composition, such as the musicians’ tambourines in the doublepage frontispiece. Inscriptions might also give further information regarding the precise location and circumstances of the work’s production. For example, a series of three drawings made during February 1672 relates to a recent shocking event at the Safavid court, when a diplomatic gift for the royal menagerie went out of control Other brief inscriptions often offer interesting contextual segments about Mu`in’s life: drawn in the lane of the lining weavers, done in haste for his son Aqa Zaman, and done at the house of my dear and venerable friend Shafi.

These are not the only copy of Firdausi’s Book of Kings which Mu`in is thought to have illustrated: he also produced a similar two-volume set dated 1058-59H (1648-49) , a c.1650-60 manuscript , a dispersed copy dated 1077H (1666-67) , and a c.1693-98 copy jointly-illustrated with his student Fazl `Ali Robinson also attributes an earlier copy dateable c.1630-40


1654 Shahnama
Dated 29th Jumada II 1064H (16th May 1654)
Safavid Isfahan, Iran
AKM274

On the Final Page:
DID YOU NOTICE THE…
Orange demon holding a tree trunk in his hand?
Musicians riding on elephants?
Evil king with snakes growing from his shoulders?
Tigerskin trousers?
white demon’s severed leg?
4 female musicians?
Waterspout in the shape of a golden peacock?
Hero wrestling with a golden demon?

1.
1v-2r A Princely Court
This beautiful double frontispiece depicts a lively court scene, with an enthroned young king on the lefthand page, and a queen on the right. Musicians play, attendants serve food and drink in vessels of gold and porcelain, and an elegant fountain-head in the shape of a trumpeter plays into the water-pool. The palace is decorated with landscape murals and tile panelling, and gardens are visible beyond. Although the two paintings imply a common space, the male and female apartments are separately determined. On the left, the king receives a crown from three female visitors, while on the right, the queen and her companions receive an elderly male visitor. The frontispiece painting does not usually illustrate the literary text which is to follow, rather it evokes the princely environment of the luxury book itself, in its contemporary context. This double-page scene refers to the court fashions and taste of 17th century Safavid Isfahan, where the manuscript was produced for an unknown patron.

2.
10v The Court of Gayumars
The Book of Kings describes the eventful reigns of 50 monarchs of ancient Iran, starting with the first king Gayumars who ruled at the dawn of history. This was a period of peaceful utopia, when mankind lived in harmony with animals. Nonetheless, Gayumars and his courtiers are all wearing animal fur as clothing: snow leopard and tigerskin robes, jackets and trousers. One man at the bottom left appears to be wearing black and white cowskin, and is attracting attention. The court’s headgear, however, is the height of fashion for 1654, the date of this manuscript.

3.
12v Tahmurath fights the army of demons
The great-grandson of Gayumars was Tahmurath. From the start, the kings of Iran had to contend with the jealous hostility of Ahriman, or Satan, and his armies of divs, or demons. Here, Tahmurath and his forces rout the demon host, charging against a comical group of brightly-coloured horned and spotted monsters with expressive caricatured faces. The king deals a mighty blow to a blue div with his mace, while further divs watch dolefully from the horizon. Following this defeat, the captured demons agree to teach the art of writing to mankind.

4.
19v Faridun defeats Zahhak
The evil tyrant Zahhak had ruled Iran with great cruelty for a thousand years. Furthermore, the devil had cursed him with two snakes which sprouted from his shoulders and had to be fed with human brains every day – which imposed misery on the people of Iran. Finally the young hero Faridun challenged the usurper. Zahhak had long known that Faridun was destined to topple him, because a premonition had come to him in a nightmare many years before. Having occupied Zahhak’s palace and freed the two Iranian princesses held there (depicted upstairs on the left), Faridun lured the evil king back and met him in combat, striking him down with his ox-headed mace. Nonetheless, as advised by the angel Surush, Faridun allowed Zahhak to live a little longer, sentencing him to hang enchained within Mount Damavand as a fitting punishment.

5.
29r Manuchihr defeats Tur, avenging his father’s murder
Salm and Tur were jealous of their father Faridun’s love for their brother Iraj, and so together they murdered Iraj. Having fled Iran, the two exiled brothers learned that their brother’s son Manuchihr had grown into a strong and noble warrior, and was well-beloved of his grandfather Faridun. They sent a deceitful message to Faridun’s court, inviting Manuchihr to meet with them, to accept compensation for their fratricide. Unfooled, Faridun sent Manuchihr at the head of a great army, and met the brothers in battle. Manuchihr fought his uncle Tur in a night attack and speared him through, finally avenging his father’s murder.

6.
45r Zal and Mihrab travel to visit Zal’s father Sam
Zal, a young nobleman of Iran, has fallen in love with the beautiful Rudaba, daughter of Mihrab, the pagan king of Kabul. News of their union did not go down well with either side: the Iranians disliked Rudaba’s descent from the demonic tyrant Zahhak, while her family feared a punitive attack from Shah Manuchihr, the king of Iran. They also felt distaste for Zal’s unusual upbringing and appearance: born an albino, white-haired Zal had been abandoned as an infant by his father Sam, and was reared in the wilderness by the magical simurgh bird, before reconciliation with his repentant father. In the course of protracted consultations about the couple, astrologers revealed that Zal and Rudaba were destined to produce a son of tremendous valour and strength. After much negotiation, the marriage was approved, to the great joy of the young pair – the future parents of Rustam, Iran’s greatest hero.

7.
64r Rustam kills the White Div
The hero Rustam was on a mission to rescue king Kay Kavus and the rest of the Iranian army, held hostage by demonic enemies in Mazandaran. In order to reach this territory, he and his horse Rakhsh had to undergo seven trials along a difficult route beset with monsters. Capturing a local landowner (shown here tied to a tree to prevent his escape), Rustam forced his prisoner to disclose the whereabouts of the fearsome White Div, whose army of demons had so compromised the Iranian forces. Magically struck down with blindness, the Iranian hostages could only be cured with the blood of the White Div himself. Bravely, Rustam entered the demon’s cave and the pair did ferocious and gruesome battle until finally Rustam was the victor.

8.
78v Kay Kavus receives Rustam at his court
Rustam, Iran’s greatest champion, has achieved great things on behalf of Shah Kay Kavus, who has been an impetuous and gullible as a ruler. On command, loyal Rustam defeats monsters and demons, fights fierce duels, and rescues his comrades from enemy territory. Here, the hero stands obediently by the throne, ready to receive orders from the king.

9.
84r Rustam kills Suhrab
The tragedy of Rustam and Suhrab is the most bitter episode of the Book of Kings. Long after an affair with the seductive princess Tahmina, Rustam is unaware that Tahmina has given birth to his son. She prepares the youth to be a warrior, and sure enough Suhrab shows all the promise of his great father. Before Suhrab leaves to seek out Rustam, Tahmina gives him an amulet which she had received from Rustam, and the young man heads off to Iran. Fate conspires that neither Rustam nor Suhrab realise that they are father and son. Suhrab duly meets, challenges and fights Rustam in a protracted single combat, each entirely unaware of their family connection. Having finally defeated the young man, Rustam is horrified to find the familiar amulet on the youth’s dying body, and too late realises his young opponent’s identity.

10.
86r Tahmina mourns her son Suhrab
Distraught, Princess Tahmina of Samangan has recovered the body of her son Suhrab, who died fighting a tragic duel against the Iranian hero Rustam without realising that Rustam was his own father. Tahmina and the women of the court grieve over the young man, tearing miserably at their hair, while Suhrab’s body still wears the amulet armband worn by the youth to prove his lineage. Tahmina and Rustam had been married only a brief while, when Rustam passed through the court of Samangan on a mission to recover Rakhsh, his lost horse.

11.
89r Sudaba tries to seduce Siyavush
Siyavush was handsome and noble, the pride of his father Shah Kay Kavus of Iran. The young prince was educated in the arts of war by none other than the hero Rustam, but when he finally returned to his father’s court, he received improper attentions from his stepmother Sudaba. Inviting the young man into the royal harem, Sudaba tried repeatedly to seduce Siyavush – this charming scene shows the delights of the women’s quarters with music, wine and company - but to no avail. Bitterly offended, Sudaba plotted revenge.

12.
92v The fire ordeal of Siyavush
Without foundation, Kay Kavus’s wife Sudaba accused her stepson Siyavush of attacking her and causing a miscarriage. This was revenge for the young man’s indifference to her secret attempts at seduction. Siyavush agreed to a trial by fire, to the dismay of his much-conflicted father Kay Kavus. To general astonishment, the innocent Siyavush galloped his horse through a fiery furnace, and both emerged completely unharmed. His innocence proven by this divine miracle, Siyavush was restored to his father’s favour. Kay Kavus could not bring himself to execute deceitful Sudaba though, and she remained in the palace, still plotting against Siyavush.

13.
104r Siyavush marries Firangis
Queen Sudaba continued to poison her husband’s opinion of his son Siyavush. Having finally fallen out with Kay Kavus, Siyavush sought exile at the Turanian court of king Afrasiyab, the Iranians’ traditional enemy. Allying Turan with the future shah of Iran, Afrasiyab arranged for Siyavush to marry his daughter Firangis, thus cleverly intending a further alliance between the two great countries. The happy couple sit on a throne together, entertained and attended by the palace women. Eventually, innocent Siyavush is executed on Afrasiyab’s orders, but Firangis bears him a son who is destined to rule both Iran and Turan – as Shah Kay Khusrau.

14.
118r Rustam lances Alkus in the fray
Rustam and seven Iranian heroes ride boldly into Turan, to Afrasiyab’s hunting-grounds, accompanied by their troops. Soon enough, Afrasiyab leads an army to repel the trespassers, and battle ensues between the various champions. The invincible Rustam unhorses and kills the Turanian champion Alkus, to the dismay of Afrasiyab who escapes.

15.
130v Rustam and the Iranians pay homage to Kay Khusrau
Kay Khusrau became the Shah of Iran when he completed the impossible challenge of sacking the fortress of Bahman, where other princes of royal descent had failed. The reigning king, Shah Kay Kavus gracefully abdicated in favour of the young hero, and here the Iranian nobility acknowledge their new ruler. Kay Khusrau’s success is indicative that he possesses the divinely-ordained royal charismatic quality of farr. He is also the son of Siyavush, the innocent Iranian prince murdered on the orders of Afrasiyab of Turan. This terrible deed was the eventual basis for protracted war between Iran and Turan.

16.
133r Kay Khusrau’s army marches to Turan
Once again, the mighty armies of Iran prepare for battle, against their perennial enemies, the neighbouring Turanians. King Kay Khusrau is enthroned upon a majestic white elephant, reviewing his troops. The Iranian champions on horseback bow their heads to their shah, with pennants fluttering gaily from their lances, ready for battle. The ox-headed mace held by Kay Khusrau is associated with Faridun, the shah’s ancestor. Following many long years of warfare with the wily Turanian king Afrasiyab, Kay Khusrau is finally and conclusively victorious over his enemy, but this victory does not ultimately bring contentment: Kay Khusrau’s great military successes cause him to withdraw from the world rather than embrace it. Depicted here at the height of his power, this ambitious king will eventually abandon worldly pursuits for spiritual concerns, to the baffled confusion of the military heroes at his court.

17.
141r Bizhan snatches the crown from Tazhav’s head
Sent into Turan on a revenge mission by Shah Kay Khusrau, the Iranian forces led by Tus encountered several setbacks and hardships, including perishing cold and starvation. After hunger brought them to eat some of their own horses, the Iranians encountered the Turanian warrior Tazhav, and in the course of battle, the Iranian hero Bizhan managed to grab a precious crown from Tazhav’s head, which had been a gift from king Afrasiyab. As Tazhav fled, the Iranians made their way into his fortress, and promptly replaced their eaten horses. Tazhav soon returned with formidable reinforcements.

18.157v Rustam shoots Ashkabus
In the course of the wars between Iran and Turan, both armies faced one another to watch single combats between the great warriors from each side. Ashkabus rode out on his horse, issuing boastful challenges to the Iranians, and defeating those who attempted a duel. Then the Iranian hero Rustam stepped forward in reply, not bothering to ride a horse, and took on Ashkabus on foot – first dispatching his horse, then the rider. Having recovered the body of Ashkabus, the Turanians marvelled at the great size of Rustam’s arrows, which were as large as lances. Rustam’s famous stature is clear in this scene, as the formidable hero looms over both horse and rider. Soldiers from both camps peer over the horizon-line, as enthralled spectators.

19.
163r Rustam wrestles Puladwand
During the reign of Kay Khusrau, the Iranians fought a long war against King Afrasiyab of Turan. Afrasiyab frequently summoned allies from further east, such as the Khaqan of Chin, the Indian king Shangul, and Kafur the cannibal. With the particular contribution of the great hero Rustam, the Iranians eventually manage to defeat these enemy forces. Next, Afrasiyab wrote a summons to Puladvand, a ruler from the eastern mountains who was renowned as a champion wrestler. Puladvand duly arrived with his army, shown here as outlandish demons, and challenged Rustam to a wrestling bout. Deceitful Afrasiyab advised his ally to pack a dagger during the combat, and thus cheat his way to victory over Rustam. Rustam learned of the shameful ruse, and was able to defeat Puladvand nonetheless.

20.
176v Bizhan rescued from the pit
This is one of the most famous episodes in the Book of Kings. The adventure begins when Bizhan, a young and brave noble at the Iranian court of Kay Khosraw, rides out to rid the kingdom of a marauding herd of wild boar, which have crossed into Iranian territory from neighbouring Turan. Wandering across the border, Bizhan meets Princess Manizha, the daughter of Afrasiyab, Iran’s sworn enemy. The young couple fall in love, but are discovered: vengeful Afrasiyab has Bizhan enchained and imprisoned alive in a deep pit, and his wretched daughter is cast out of the palace for her family disloyalty. Meanwhile, Kay Khosraw learns what has happened in Turan, and decides to send for Rustam, Iran’s greatest hero. Rustam duly undertakes the rescue mission, and leads a group of warriors disguised as merchants into the enemy’s territory, where they meet the destitute Manizha. At nightfall, she leads Iran’s
warriors to Bizhan’s rescue. Only Rustam is strong enough to shift the great rock covering over the pit, and Bizhan is finally freed. This is the moment of triumph illustrated here: Rustam lowers a rope to the starving and shackled Bizhan, while weary Manizha hides her face with emotion and relief.

Notes :

Volume 2 is at the Chester Beatty.

Folio 104r (the Mariage of Siyavish and Firangis) is illustrated in 'Safavid monochrome-glazed pottery from Kirman: decoration and dating' by Patricia Ferguson in Vol. 73 2008-9 of the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society.

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Date de création :

28/04/2010 10:15:18

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    Aga Khan Museum

    classe : Fonds des documents graphiques de l'Aga Khan Museum (Réf : doc graphiques AKM)

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