Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 3-230_2
(David folio 114b)

Rostam Drags the Ḵāqān of Čin from the Elephant

The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 149b.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
23.4 x 14.0 cm. not including extension into the right margin and standards that extend into upper 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.

In the battle against the army of the Ḵāqān of Čin, Rostam finally confronted the king on his white elephant. He captured the Ḵāqān with his lasso, pulling him from the elephant and dragging him to his soldiers, who bound him. In this painting, Rostam has just lassoed the Ḵāqān, but has not yet bound him. Soldiers are arrayed along the horizon line, including two like the jockey, wearing Indian-style turbans, a reference to the Asian origin of the Ḵāqān and his supporters.

Among the distinguishing characteristics of this illustration is the gray color of the elephant, despite the fact that it is described as white in the text. Certainly Moʿin deliberately chose to deviate from the customary way of depicting the elephant, since a white elephant appears in folio 32a, Rustam Kills the White Elephant. Additionally, the scale of the jockey on the elephant's back is disproportionately small, even if he is intended to be a child. Likewise, Raḵš is large by comparison with the elephant, but small in relation to Rostam. The anomalies of scale serve to emphasize the key figures in the narrative, while the choice of painting the elephant gray may have more to do with Moʿin's interest in novelty.

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, p.68 no. 18 and p.95, fig.27.

Text references:

Warner, III, p.230; Mohl, III, pp.159-60; Levy, p.138.

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

Sheila R. Canby

Last Updated: October 12, 2014 | Originally published: 2010