Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript E, no. 3-306

Pirān Stays the Execution of Bižan

Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Acc. no. 1974.290.43
36.5 x 22.2 cm.
18.2 x 14.3 cm (scaled, max. size without narrow extensions between columns).
Text area: 25.2 x 14.3 cm.
Text: four column; deepest column 11 lines on a 30 line per full page matrix.
Illustration number:
The number 42 written in Arabic numerals, presumably of later date, appears in the right margin, probably indicating that it was the forty-second painting in the manuscript.

While hunting wild boar, Bižan's companion Gorgin lured him to approach Maniža, Afrāsiyāb's beautiful daughter, whose tent was in a meadow nearby. Bižan and Maniža were enamored with each other, but when it was time for the young Bižan to depart, Maniža drugged him and carried him off to her palace, where the merriment and banqueting continued. An alert chamberlain got wind of the excitement, investigated, and promptly reported to Afrāsiyāb that his daughter Maniža had an Iranian lover. Afrāsiyāb, incensed at this report, sent his brother Garsivaz to the palace to bring this interloper before him. Garsivaz beguiled Bižan with a pretense of friendship, but then bound Bižan hand to foot and dragged him before Afrāsiyāb, who ordered him executed. As Bižan was being prepared on the scaffold, Pirān, the senior commander of the Turānians, perchance passed by and inquired as to who was being executed. After finding out it was Bižan, and listening to his story, Pirān ordered his captors to stay the execution until he had the chance to address the king on the matter. Pirān subsequently convinced Afrāsiyāb that shedding Bižan's blood would only incur the wrath of the Iranians; that it would be far wiser to incarcerate him in a dark dungeon. Afrāsiyāb, swayed by Pirān's advice, ordered Bižan be confined in a deep pit instead. (See ms.E, no. 3-346).

There are three main participants in the illustration. Bižan, bound hands and feet, with a noose around his neck that is attached to the scaffold frame is at the near-center of the composition. Off to the right, astride a black horse is the Turānian military commander Pirān, signalling the executioner to stop. On the left side, in a
vermilion coat, is the person apparently in charge of the execution - perhaps intended to be Garsivaz - signalling acceptance of Pirān's wishes. Five other "non-participants" are porrayed in the scene. The backdrop is an off-white sloping hillside tipped with coral color rocks near the top, a few bushes, and a variegated blue sky in the far distance.

This page is part of the re-bound rump volume known as the "Gutman Shahnama". There are four columns of text above and below the painting, with a chapter title captivated in the middle of the text below the painting. A rectangular ruled frame encloses illustration and text. Unsigned.

Painting references:
- search collections for 1974.290.43

Text references:

Warner, III, p.306. Mohl, III, p.258. Levy, pp.162-63. Davis, Shahnameh_2006, pp.316-17.

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974.

Robert Eng

Last Updated: June 24, 2013 | Originally published: June 24, 2013