Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript D, folio 26

Esfandiyār's Fourth Exploit: He Slays the Sorceress

The witch is portrayed in the left foreground in her true and final form, haggard, with gray skin, white hair, wearing a brocaded maroon dress loosely knotted at the waist. She has already fallen to her knees and braces herself with one arm, while with the other she grasps the chain that is pulled taught about her neck by Esfandiyār, who stands over her on the right. Esfandiyār is dressed in a yellow-orange coat, pointed steel helmet, and full combat regalia. While pulling the chain taught, he has simultaneously cleaved her on the head with his sword, and blood gushes forth. A narrow stream, originally silver but now tarnished black, winds its way through the picture and between the two central characters. The stream is vegetated on each side by numerous small leafy plants and flowers, and near the top, by two pairs of slender cypress trees and a deciduous tree that intertwines two of them. Between the cypresses is spread a small carpet, on which is placed two long necked flacons, a lute, a goblet, and a platter of food. In the extreme right background are the forequarters of Esfandiyār’s black horse and a groom shown in profile.

Painting: 25.3 x 12.5 cm. Four columns of text above the painting of which two columns are comprised of a single line of text each, and the remaining columns of two lines of text each. In the bottom left hand corner is a single column comprising two lines of text. A rectangular ruled frame encloses painting and text, except for the tops of the four cypress trees 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 that seem to be in Moʿin’s hand: ze towfiq ṣān¯e raqam zad moʿin (Drawn with the grace of the Maker by the most humble Moʿin). No date is indicated.

Painting references:
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, V, pp.128-31. Mohl, IV, pp.407..

Robert Eng
Last Updated: January 12, 2011 |
Originally published: May 7, 2003

Photo: © The Trustees of The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin