Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 4-306

Rostam and the Iranians in the Snow

Location: Harvard Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Francis H. Burr Memorial Fund, 1941.294.
Formerly in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard.

34.8 x 20.5 cm.
24.0 x 12.0 cm. including painted spaces between the text columns. (Scaled)
Text area: 29.4 x 14.8 cm
Signature in the center of the lower margin: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver.

This page was removed from the manuscript and would have appeared just before the end of the first section of the Shahnama. At the end of his reign, Kay Ḵosrow gave up his throne and disappeared in the mountains. Worried about his fate, five paladins went in search of him. When they decided to sleep, a storm blew up and covered them in snow. Several days had passed when Rostam set out in search of the paladins. A spring of water runs down the left side, and, reaching the bottom, turns to flow horizontally across the painting. This is the spring in which Kay Ḵosrow had bathed just before his disappearance, and to which some of the paladins had followed against his wishes. This illustration shows two episodes of the story, Rostam's search and the snow burying the paladins, whose standards are all that remains visible.

As with so many of the illustrations to this volume, Moʿin has shown his creativity through the composition of this painting while working with a limited palette and repeating his standard figural types. Instead of placing figures of secondary importance in the background, he has lowered the horizon and arrayed Rustam and his fellow paladins along it, gazing out and contemplating the loss of their king and friends. Unbeknownst to him, the bodies of the lost men lie under the snow at the foot of the mountain range, visible only by the tips of their standards.

Painting references:
Schroeder, Fogg_1941, p.147, #XXVIII (ill.).
Stchoukine, SA_1964, p.65.
Robinson, PD_1965, pl.69 (ill. in color).
Simpson, Fogg_1980, p.94 #35 (ill.)
Cambridge Shahnameh Project

Canby_ Journal_2010, p.71 no.25

Text references:

Warner, IV, p.306 and p.310; Mohl, III, pp.213, 217-19

Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College

Sheila R. Canby

Last Updated: July 9, 2014 | Previously published Eng: March 29, 2011 | Originally published Canby: 2010