Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript G, folio 184

Rostam Rescues Bižan from the Pit

This painting is the most popular scene from the episode of Bižan in the pit and depicts a subsequent scene to folio 176v, where Bižan, imprisoned in the pit, was being fed by Maniža.

The setting is basically the same as folio 176v, but the vantage point is further away, thus reducing the scale and allowing for the inclusion of Rostam and his seven companions. The pit is accordingly reduced in proportions, and inside the same Bižan encountered on folio 176v is squatting, having raised his shackled hands upward to grasp Rostam’s lasso, which has been lowered from above. The boulder has already been cast away from the opening on top, and the mighty Rostam, clad in his identifiable tiger and leopard skin cuirass, braces himself as he is about to pull Bižan up from the pit on the end of his lasso. Maniža, her features covered by the sleeve of her čador, stands to the left of the opening, awaiting the emergence of her lover. The beacon fire still burns brightly before her. In the upper right, the seven warriors that accompanied Rostam on the expedition - Gorgin, Zanga, Gostaham, Gorāza, Raḵām, Farhād, and Aškāš - are portrayed tightly grouped together. The tree, now with more foliage visible because of the reduced scale, appears behind them. Near the top is a ridge, and behind it a gold sky.

Painting: 26.5 x 16.5 cm. The text is written in four columns above and below the painting, with a rectangular frame enclosing painting and text. The miniscule signature raqam-e kamina fażl ʿali appears just above the calligraphy at the bottom center. In the lower margin, written in Moʿin’s hand, is the signature raqam-e kamina moʿin-e moṣavver. Attributed by Jackson and Yohannan to Fażl ʿAli, and by Robinson to Moʿin with the assistance of Fażl ʿAli. The painting is executed in excellent Moʿin style, and the detailing indistinguishable from the master’s work. Yet the signature of Fażl ʿAli suggests that Moʿin had assistance, yet the lesser artist's contribution is inseparable from his master’s.

For two earlier versions of this same scene also executed by Moʿin, see Ms. C f.176v, and Ms.E-3/346.

Painting references:
J&Y_1914, p.37 no.28 (not ill.).
Guest, AI_1943, p.152, fig.21.
Robinson, Cochran4_1972, p.79, no.28 and p.83, fig. 18.
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, III, pp.344-46; Mohl, III, p.312; Levy, p.170.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: February 14, 2011 | Originally published: June 18, 2003

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York