Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript E, no. 3-346

Rostam Rescues Bižan from the Pit

Location: Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Formerly in the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection, no. Ir.M 43/C
36.2 x 22.6 cm (after Grube)
17.5 x 14.1 cm (after Grube); with extensions 25.0 x 18.0 cm (scaled)
Text area: 25.0 x 14.1 cm.( scaled)
Text: four column; deepest columns 13 lines on a 30 line per full page matrix.
Illustration number: The number 43 written in Arabic numerals, presumably of later date, appears in the right margin, probably indicating that it was the forty-third painting in the manuscript.

The pit is shown in the center foreground as a hollowed out rock mound from which the front section has been removed, thereby permitting the viewer to see inside the pit simultaneously with the events outside. The walls are formed of coral-like rock, mauve in color, which slope inward leaving only a narrow opening at the top. The interior is black except for the solitary figure of Bižan crouching at the bottom, with a gold goblet and a wine pitcher at his side; bareheaded and clothed entirely in white, his arms are shackled in long chains to his neck. He looks upward toward the narrow orifice, through which Rostam, dressed in his familiar tiger skin coat and leopard skin headdress, has lowered a lasso. Bižan has grasped the end of the lasso in anticipation of being hoisted upward and freed. Only three of the seven warriors that accompanied Rostam are portrayed, in the upper right at the top of the rock formation, waiting for the rescue to be completed. Maniža stands on the left side, also near the top of the rock formation, dressed entirely in a full length white chador that leaves only her face uncovered. The signal fire burns brightly in the upper left next to the pit opening. In the far background is the sky executed in a blue wash, and in the right margin near the bottom is the boulder which Rostam has singlehandedly removed from the mouth of the pit.

There are four columns of text above and below the painting. At the top the two outside columns are each comprised of six lines, and the center columns of four lines each. Below the pattern is repeated, but the outside columns comprise seven lines each, and the center columns five lines. A rectangular ruled frame encloses illustration and text except in the lower right where the boulder violates the frame and exists almost entirely in the right margin. Signed in the center of the lower margin in minuscule characters in Moʿin’s hand: raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. No date.

Two other Moʿin paintings of this subject are extant, one earlier, the other later. Cf. Ms.C, f.176v, and Ms.G, f.184 .

Painting references:
Grube, MMP_1962, #115 (ill.).
Welch, AK2_1972, Ir.M 43/C (not ill.).

Text references:

Warner, III, p.346; Mohl, III, p.312; Levy, p.170.

Photo courtesy of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

Robert Eng

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