Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript E, no. 3-230

Rostam Pulls the Ḵāqān of China from His Elephant by Lasso in Battle

Location: Current whereabouts unknown
dimensions not known
25.0 x 18.0 cm. including extensions into the right margin (after Sothebys)
Text area: 25.0 x 14.3 cm. (after Sothebys)
Text: four column; deepest columns 9 lines on a 30 line per full page matrix.
Illustration number: The number 37 written in Arabic numerals, presumably of later date, appears in the right margin, probably indicating that it was the thirty-seventh painting in the manuscript.

Cf. Ms.B no. 3-230 for another depiction of this episode, with a composition that is similar in many respects. The Harvard painting, however, is much more elaborate and accomplished than the painting shown here. It has a total of twelve figures (here there are only eight), and the intricacies of the rock outcropping, the quantity of shrubbery, and the fabric patterns are elaborated in more detail.

Rostam, shown in his traditional garb of tiger-skin coat and leopard-skin headdress, is the dominant figure in the right foreground of both illustrations. Instead of charging from the right as he does in the Harvard painting, here he is riding off to the right, with his back to the Ḵāqān. The Ḵāqān, ensnared in Rostam’s lasso, is shown on the left side sliding headlong off his elephant, which unlike its counterpart in Harvard marches onward rather than collapsing under Rostam's power. Four soldiers, distinguishable by their pointed steel helmets, are casually observing the event. In all cases only their heads and shoulders are visible, the remainder of their bodies being cropped by the frame or hidden by the rock formation from behind which they peer. In the upper right are two turbaned trumpeters, whose upper torsos are visible as they appear from behind the rocks. One horn violates the frame and extends into the right margin. The backdrop in the lower portion of the painting is innocuous so as not to conflict with the main action taking place. The upper half of the illustration, however, is more exuberant, with coral-like rock formations, diminutive shrubs, and a stormy sky.

There are four columns of text above and below the illustration. At the top the two outside columns are each comprised of five lines, and the center columns of two lines each with a chapter title. Below the pattern is repeated, but the outside columns comprise five lines each, and the center columns three lines. A rectangular ruled frame encloses illustration and text except in the lower right where the forequarters of Raḵš and a horn protrude into the right margin. Signed in the center of the lower margin in minuscule characters: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. Not dated.

Painting references:
Sothebys London 27 April 1994, Lot 93 (ill.).

Text references:

Warner, III, p.230. Mohl, III, pp.159-60. Levy, p.138.

Photo: after Sothebys

Robert Eng

Last Updated: April 27, 2013 | Originally published: June 23, 1997