Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 3-091
(David folio 91a)

The Turanians Led by Pirān Defeat the Iranians

The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 91a.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
18.2 x 14.0 cm. not including painted spaces between the text columns or extensions into th margins. (Scaled)
Text area: 28.2 x 14.0 cm. (Scaled)
Signature in the center of the lower margin: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver.

Most Shahnama manuscripts contain a preponderance of battle scenes, since the war between the Iranians and Turanians is the subject of so much of the prehistoric section of the narrative. However, Moʿin Moṣavver preferred single combats in which the protagonists could be portrayed large-scale and a few onlookers and attendants would populate the periphery of the main action. This painting is an exception in his work and an unusual choice of episode for illustration. Although the Iranian and Turanian soldiers are not differentiated by their costume, the figure that holds the standard at the right is most likely Fariborz, the Iranian. As Ferdowsi describes it, the battle was a bloodbath on both sides, but the Turanians prevailed despite great loss of life on their side. The horses and their mounts dashing left and right convincingly evoke the melee and confusion of the battefield, while the trumpeters blow their horns at the upper left, in keeping with the description in the text.

In the Shahnama, this battle follows a better-known Turanian attack on the Iranian camp at night when most of the Iranians were drunk, a scene often found in 16th-century manuscripts. An illustration of this episode, attributed to Pir Beg, does appear in a 17th-century Shahnameh with contributions from a range of artists, including Moʿin Moṣavver.(fn.40). However, Moʿin's works date to the 1690's and the colophon of the manuscript is dated between 1663 and 1669, so Moʿin's composition in the David Collection Shahnama is more likely to be the prototype for Pir Beg's work.

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, p.66 no. 14 and p.92, fig.24.

Text references:

Warner, III, pp. 89-95.

Photo: Permille Klemp. Courtesy of The David Collection, Copenhagen

Sheila R. Canby

Last Updated: May 15, 2014 | Originally published: 2010