Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript B, no. 6-263
(David folio 243b)

Ardašir Recognizes his Son Šāpur Playing Polo

Location: The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark, #217/2006, folio 243b.
35.2 x 21.8 cm.
23.4 x 11.7 cm. including painted spaces between the text columns. (Scaled)
Text area: 28.7 x 14.4 cm. (Scaled)
Signature in the center of the lower margin: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver.

Ardašir had ordered his minister to kill his beloved, the daughter of Ardavān, unaware that she was pregnant. The minister, who had this knowledge, hid her and her son, Šāpur, until the boy was seven years old. At that point, to the joy of Ardašir, he confessed what he had done. The king then ordered his son and one hundred other boys to be brought together to play polo, stating that he would recognize his own son when he saw him.

Here, Ardašir looks admiringly at his son, who is about to run faster than the other boys to hit the polo ball, even though it came close to the king. The boy holding the polo ball, the only one not wearing a crown, is the groom whom Ardašir asked to send the ball in his direction to see how the boys would react. On the basis of dress, the boy in the golden robe and crown is the most likely candidate to be identified as Šāpur. Interestingly, the boys are not playing polo on horseback, but play a game akin to hockey. The figure with the moustache next to the king is presumably his minister, while the other figures are servants or attendants. As in many of Moʿin's illustrations, the composition consists of two parts, the king and horsemen on the right and the boys on the left.

For a later Moʿin painting of this event see ms.D, f.95.

Painting references:
Canby_ Journal_2010, p. 75 no. 39 and p.106, fig.38.

Text references:

Warner, VI, pp.263-65.

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

Sheila R. Canby

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