Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 3-195
(David folio 109b)

Rostam Overturns Čengiz

The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 109b.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
23.7 x 17.7 cm. including extension into the right margin and painted spaces between the text columns. Extensions into the top margin not included. (Scaled)
Text area: 28.0 x 14.0 cm. (Scaled)
Signature The lower margin contains a signature and date: "on Tuesday the 20th of Rabi' II 1060 [April 22, 1650] it was completed. If there has been any shortcoming, may it be forgiven; the most humble [illegile] speck of dust moʿin-e moṣavver drew it."

Čengiz, a soldier in the army of the Khan of Čin (China), announced his aim to challenge Rostam to avenge the death of one of his compatriots. When he encountered Rostam on the battlefield, Rostam lifted Čengiz's horse up by its tail so that he fell to the ground and Rostam subsequently beheaded him. Here Moʿin has chosen to present the most dramatic and unusual moment of this episode with the horse and Čengiz upside down and about to meet their fate. Kay Ḵosrow and three soldiers watch from the horizon while below more men gesticulate and observe the rout.

The discolored, brown ground is most likely the result of the action of verdigris in pigment that would have originally been green. Although illustrations of this scene are fairly common, they almost always depict Rostam chasing Čengiz and grabbing his horse's tail. Moʿin's decision to show Čengiz and his horse upside down in mid-air is utterly novel. Since Moʿin would have had access to other illustrated manuscripts if he had wished to find a prototype, his must have aimed for originality in his composition, even when his style remained conservative and mostly unchanging.

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, p.67 no. 16 and p.94, fig.26.

Text references:

Warner, III, pp. 194-96.

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

Sheila R. Canby

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