Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript C, folio 10v

Kayumars̱ Enthroned

Although this is the only example of this subject that can be attributed to Moʿin, representations of Kayumars̱ and his court are quite popular Shahnåma illustrations, and this painting follows the established canon in many respects. However, there are fewer figures represented than one normally encounters in earlier versions. One of Kayumars̱ achievements was teaching his people to clothe themselves with animal skins. Here, however, instead of rudimentary animal skin dress, the participants are portrayed in stylish seventeenth century dress made of animal skins - leopard, tiger, and calf are readily apparent. And all wear equally stylish hats. Altogether fourteen personage are represented under a tree; the impression is that of a picnic festival. Beverage flows freely; near the center of the composition a servant is pouring drink from a long-necked flacon, while many of the participants already have cup in hand. Kayumars̱ is seated, cross-legged, with a cup to his lips, in the upper right. He wears a leopard skin jacket, tiger skin pantaloons, and a hat with feathers. Behind him, on the extreme right, are two standing servants. In the lower right are five tightly-grouped individuals, variously attired, but appearing as though they are posing for a picture. Two more men are seated in the lower left; one of them is more prominent by virtue of his clothing of multi-colored calf skin. Standing directly behind him is a man with a mustache and goethe, wearing a full length tiger skin coat with fur collar and a beret-like hat. The intent may here be to render a European, for he looks like a personage borrowed from Flemish painting. Just to the right of him is the kneeling cupbearer who pours the wine and circulates the condiments, and in the upper left two additional youths who likewise appear to be servants. The ground has conventionalized tufts of grass, and in the center background there is a tree with its branches disappearing behind the upper text.

There are four columns of text at the top, which are of two different lengths varying to include from five to eight lines of text. A chapter title in its own frame is superimposed at the middle of the two central columns. Additionally, two single lines of text appears in the bottom left corner. A ruled frame encloses painting and text. The painting is signed near the center of the lower margin, in miniscule characters in Moʿin’s hand: raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. No date is indicated.

Painting references:
Welch, AK4_1978, p.89, Ms.22, folio 10 (not illustrated).
Text references:

Warner, I, pp.118-19; Mohl, I, pp.19-21; Levy, p.5..

Robert Eng
Last Updated: May 19, 2011 | Originally published:
May 19, 2011

Photo: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva