Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 5-272
(David folio 211a)

Rostam Kills Šaghād and Dies

Location: The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 211a.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
23.6 x 11.7 cm. (Scaled)
Text area: 28.6 x 14.6 cm. (Scaled)
Signature in the center of the lower margin: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver.

One of the most poignant stories in the Shahnama concerns the death of the great hero Rostam and his horse, Raḵš. Šaghād, Rostam's half-brother, married the daughter of the King of Kabul, a satrap of Rostam's father, Zāl. When the King decided he would no longer pay his annual tribute, he and Šaghād began to plot the downfall of Rostam, knowing that he would come to Kabul to collect the tax. They ordered a deep pit to be dug and had sharp spikes placed in it. Then these were concealed. When Rustam arrived, he and Raḵš fell into the pit and were impaled. Rostam realized that Šaghād was watching his demise hiding behind a tree, so with his last gasp Rostam shot an arrow that pierced the tree and killed Šaghād.

Moʿin has made the most of the narrow format of this page, squeezing Šaghād between the barren tree and the right-hand margin. The artist may have intended to alter Šaghād's pose, since his left hand appears in an anomalous position, perhaps because of its proximity to the margin. Also, the passage between his leg and the tree is either unfinished or else part of the tree was stripped of its bark. Rostam and Raḵš, set off against the black pit, fit neatly between stepped text blocks. Although blood pours from Raḵš, Rostam's wounds are less obvious, perhaps to emphasize his heroism, even in death. In the 1066 /1655 Shahnama in the Chester Beatty Library, (see ms. D, folio 53) Moʿin has reversed the placement of the figures, with Šaghād behind the tree on the left and Rostam on the right, shooting at a less acute angle. While the figure of Šaghād is depicted in a more assured manner, the composition is less dramatic than in the David Collection version.

For another later version of this subject also painted by Moʿin, see ms. G, folio 282

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, pp.73-74 no. 34 and p.103, fig.35.

Text references:

Warner, V, pp.128-31. Mohl, IV, p.578. Levy, pp.216-17.

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

Sheila R. Canby

Last Updated: July 25, 2014 | Originally published: 2010