Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript C, folio 176v

Rostam Rescues Bižan from the Pit

The pit is depicted in the foreground as a hollowed out rock mound from which the front section has been removed, thereby permitting the viewer to see inside the pit simultaneous with events outside. The walls of the pit are formed of coral-like craggy rock, with a few branches of leafless vegetation growing inward. The interior is black except for the solitary figure of Bižan seated at the bottom with a flat mat placed before him, on which stands a decanter, goblet, and two pieces of fruit. Young Bižan is bareheaded and clothed entirely in white, his arms shackled in long chains to his neck. He looks upward toward the narrow opening at the top, through which Rostam, dressed in his familiar tiger and leopard skins, has lowered a lasso that is now looped around Bižan’s body. The seven warriors that accompanied Rostam on the expedition are standing in a row, four on the left and three on the right, at the top of the rock formation waiting for the rescue to be completed. On the left side, further down the rock formation, is the crouching figure of Maniža, dressed entirely in a full length white čador that leaves only her face exposed. On the right side, near the top of the rock formation, a bush grows diagonally out of the rock; below it are the forequarters of two horses and a groom depicted in profile.

There are four columns of text above the painting comprised of eight, six, five, and seven lines of text respectively. Enclosed between the frame and text is a chapter heading. Two additional columns comprised of a single line of text each are in the lower left corner. A rectangular frame encloses painting and text except on the right where the frame is non-existent in the illustration area, and the painting spills freely into the margin. In addition, four standards, three at the top and one on the left, violate the frame and protrude into the margins. The painting is signed in the center of the lower margin in miniscule characters in Moʿin’s hand: raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. The inscription is not dated.

Cf. two other versions of this subject - Ms.E-3/346 and Ms.G folio 184 - which vary somewhat in compositional organization, but are unmistakably similar in concept and in details.

Painting references:
Welch, AK4_1978, p.90, Ms.22, folio 176v (not ill.).
Text references:

Warner, III, pp.344-46; Mohl, III, p.312; Levy, p.170.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: July 13, 2011 | Originally published:
July 13, 2011

Photo: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva