Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript A2, no. 2-220

The Fire Ordeal of Siyāvoš

Location: National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. PNS 381, folio 80r.
30.5 x 18.5 cm
23.7 x 10.5 cm. (includes interstices between the text columns)
Text area: 19.7 x 10.6 cm.
Text: four column; 8 lines on a 31 line per full page matrix.
Signature: Not signed

In the foreground of the painting is a neatly arranged pile of tree trunks and logs. Golden flames leap from the pyre across the width of the text columns, and upwards three-quarters of the height of the composition. In the midst of the flames is the solitary, youthful Siyāvoš, clad entirely in gray in variance with the text which states he was dressed entirely in white, driving his black steed steadfastly through the fire. As a backdrop to the flames is a coral-like formation of mauve colored rock, accentuated with white, which rises in a fantasy-like towering structure over Siyāvoš. In the upper right is a building, vaguely defined, but clearly of two levels and surmounted by a small pavilion. The structure is presumably the royal palace for on the second level is Shah Kāvos. He holds his hand to his mouth while intently observing the outcome of Siyāvoš’s ordeal. Next to him is a young lady who might be identified as Sudāba. Both of their faces have been obliterated. Below them, on the lower level, seven males of various rank are also watching the event.

The subject is one of the most popular illustrations from the Shahnama, and this painting follows standard form with little variance from prior depictions. Moʿin painted another version about a decade later, compositionally very similar, that is now in the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto -- Ms.C, folio 92v.

Painting references:
Giuzalian & Diakonov, Leningrad_1935, pp. 83-84 no.46, and plate 46 (in black and white)
Cambridge Shanameh Project

Text references:
Warner, II, pp. 218-21; Mohl, II, pp.190-91.

Provenence: Gift of Abbās Mirzā to Alexander I, who placed it in the Hermitage Library collection. In 1832, the manuscript was transferred to the National Library of Russia by order of Alexander II.

after Cambridge Shahnameh

Robert Eng

Last Updated: June 4, 2016 | Originally published: June 4, 2016




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