Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript C, folio 19v

Faridun Defeats Żaḥḥāk

The setting for the illustration is the courtyard of Żaḥḥāk’s palace, a tiled structure of two stories with a finely painted panel of birds on the lower level. On the right side is a garden with two cypress trees, a bush, and other verdure. The figures are arranged basically in three horizontal “registers”. In the foreground, their lower extremities cropped by the frame, are four mounted soldiers wearing pointed steel helmets and carrying standards. The one of the left is apparently the leader, for he seems to be giving directions to the three others facing him. In the center “register” are the two main figures, Faridun and Żaḥḥāk, shown slightly larger in scale. Faridun is on the right, swinging the ox-headed mace over his head and about to bring it crashing down on Żaḥḥāk.

Faridun wears a red coat, pointed steel helmet adorned with feathers, leather arm and leg protectors, and a sword, encased bow, and quivers hang from his belt. Żaḥḥāk, with both feet off the ground in a conventionalized depiction of running, recoils to the left before Faridun’s onslaught. Clutching a dagger in his right hand, Żaḥḥāk feebly attempts to ward off the impending blow by raising his left arm in defense. He is amply dressed for combat in a chain mail coat, pointed steel helmet adorned with feathers, arm and leg guards, and a quiver case hanging from his belt. In the upper “register”, from a balcony and windows on the second floor of the palace, three young ladies, apparently members of Żaḥḥāk’s harām with whom Faridun had been dallying, observe the struggle. They are portrayed in the typical Moʿin manner, wearing tiaras, their heads canted languidly to one side.

There are four columns of text consisting of two lines each above the painting, and two columns of a single line each at the bottom left. A ruled frame encloses painting and text except for two cupolas of unequal size alternating between three small bushes that violate the frame and protrude into the upper margin. The painting is signed in the lower margin, to the right of center, in miniscule characters in Moʿin’s hand: raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. Not dated.

Painting references:
Welch, AK4_1978, p.89, Ms.22, folio 19v (illustrated).
Welch, Islamic Book_1982, p.119 (illustrated).
Text references:

Warner, I, p.168; Mohl, I, p.81; Levy, p.24.

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

Photo: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva