Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript F, no. 2-Barzu

Barzu Battles the Divs

Location: Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London. Previously in the Kraus Collection, New York.
34.4 x 22.3 cm.
16.6 x 15.0 cm. (after Grube)
Text area: 27.4 x 15.9 cm.(scaled). A rectangular ruled frame encloses illustration and text except at the top where five standards protrude into the upper margin.
Text: consists of a single line of two column text above the painting, with a single line of two column text and 11 lines of four column text below the illustration, on a 27 line per full page matrix. The text has been smeared in a number of places, and the facial features of two of the warriors in the upper right appear to have been retouched.
Signature: in the center of the lower margin, in miniscule characters that appear to be in Moʿin’s hand: raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. No date is indicated.

The story of Barzu, son of Sorāb and grandson of Rostam, is a diversion in the Shahnama just prior to the episode of Siyāvoš. It is not included in many copies of the text and does not appear in the translation by Warner and Warner. In the story, sometimes referred to as the “Barzunāma”, Barzu engages in a series of confrontations with various warriors, Ṭus, Fariborz, Farāmarz, and finally Rostam himself, who spares his life only upon the intervention of his mother, Sorāb’s widow. Later Barzu fights a number of divs, and at the end is found dead by Rostam alongside the body of the two-headed demon.

Barzu is portrayed in the right foreground wearing a pointed steel helmet, with an encased bow, sword, and quiver case on his belt. With both arms he swings a large bulbous mace, which impacts the head of a brown div that collapses before him under the weight of the blow. The demon is portrayed as an oversized humanoid, with exaggerated human facial features, curly hair, a tail, a twin horns, and wearing only a short skirt and bracelets on its ankles, knees, biceps, wrists, and neck. Both of the div’s legs have been severed and lie bleeding in the right foreground. The two principal combatants dominate the composition, and contrast against the light mauve non-descript hillside that serves as a backdrop. To the left of the fallen demon appear the head and shoulders of another, white in color, still clutching a shield. Two more demons, one red and one white, are behind the ridge in the upper left. On the opposite side, three warriors in pointed steel helmets observe the event below..

Painting references:
Grube, Kraus, no.168

Photo after Grube

Robert Eng

Last Updated: June 16, 2015 | Originally published:June 16, 2015