Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 4-099
(David folio 144b)

Fariborz Defeats Kalbād; the First Joust of the Rooks

Location: The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 144b.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
23.2 x 11.5 cm. including painted spaces between the text columns. (Scaled)
Text area: 28.7 x 14.2 cm. (Scaled)
Signature in the center of the lower margin: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver.

This is the right half of a double-page opening, depicting two of the single combats between the Iranians and Turanians, called the Battle of the Twelve Rukhs. The commanders of the opposing forces decided that lives would be spared if, instead of a full-scale battle, they chose twelve warriors to fight their counterparts from the enemy ranks. Fariborz was pitted against the Turanian Kalbād. At first Fariborz shot arrows at his foe, but when they failed to stop him, he unsheathed his sword and split Kalbād in two from his head to his waist.

Moʿin has chosen to depict the moment when Fariborz cleaves his enemy in two. The raised shield, the arc of the arm and sword of Fariborz, the horses racing at full tilt toward one another, and the foiled attempt of Kalbād to land a blow on Fariborz add dynamism to the scene. The unmoved expressions on all the figures' faces, however, counteract this. As ever in Moʿin's illustrations, emotion is not expressed through physiognomy.

For a later version of this scene painted by Moʿin, see Ms. C f.199r.

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, p.70 no. 23 and p.99, fig.30.

Text references:

Warner, IV, p. 99.

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

Sheila R. Canby

Last Updated: June 28, 2014 | Originally published: 2010