Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript G, folio 116

Rostam Watching the Combat of Pilsam and Guv

This scene does not exist in either Warner or Mohl, and two additional verses have been placed in the text. The subject is an unusual choice for an illustration, depicting the point where Rostam is watching the Turānian Pilsam and realizing that he will have to intervene. The composition is nearly symmetrical, being divided by an implied central axis that vertically splits the painting into two halves. The two combatants are shown near the center of the composition engaged in one on one combat, Pilsam the Turānian having charged from the right, and Guv from the left. Each move, each gesture of Pilsam and his horse is paralleled with a similar action by Guv and his mount. But Guv’s sword thrust is wide, while Pilsam’s has found its mark in his opponent’s chest. Beside the two combatants, a total of twenty-one other personage and three horses are represented, all observers to the event. Two small groups are nearly symmetrically disposed in the near foreground, their lower extremities cropped by the frame. The balance of the personage witness from beyond the ridges in the background. There are ten figures behind the nearer ridge, consisting of five personage from each side, distributed in a row across the picture, including the towering figure of Rostam on his horse just to the right of center, clad in his familiar leopard and tiger skin cuirass. Behind the second ridge, further in the background, are five trumpeters, three on the left, and two on the right. The setting is a barren hillside almost completely devoid of vegetation except for widely dispersed tufts of grass. The hillside culminates in a rocky crest about one-third of the distance down from the top. Beyond it is a second ridge, and in the far distance a sky with clouds.

Painting: 25.5 x 16.5 cm. There are three lines of four column text above, and below the painting. A rectangular frame encloses painting and text. A miniscule raqam-e kamina fażl ʿali appears in the center foreground between two horses, and Moʿin’s signature, raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver, is in the center of the lower margin. The style is that of Moʿ in, but the sky at least, and perhaps other details, appear to be by Fażl ʿAli.

Painting references:
J&Y_1914, p.36 no.21 (not ill.).
Robinson, Cochran4_1972, p.78, no.21 (not ill.).
Cambridge Shahnameh Project

Robert Eng
Last Updated: January 27, 2011 | Originally published: June 18, 2003

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York