Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript G, folio 244v

Goštāsp Slays a Dragon in Rum

The composition is simple yet dynamic, being basically conceived in a broad circular movement. Goštāsp, seated on a spirited horse in the right foreground, draws his bow taught and aims an arrow directly at the head of the dragon which appears only inches away. The large serpentine dragon is snake-like in form with four short legs and flame-like appendages fluttering from its head, back, and feet. A twin branched horn grows from its head, and its mouth is open revealing sharp white teeth and a slithering tongue that dances before Goštāsp. The body of the dragon forms a sweeping arc beginning at its head just before Goštāsp’s bow in the left foreground, up and across the top of the painting, and terminating in its pointed tail that extends into the right margin. The dragon stands straddle of a mountain that reaches a peak under its midsection. Another jagged rock formation, in the left foreground, begins its upward slope under the hooves of Govstāsp’s horse, curving upward to visually reinforce the transfer of thrust from Goštāsp’s bow to the head of the dragon. A few small green bushes grow from the rock formation, and in the far distance is a sky striated with clouds of the Fażl ʿAli type.

Painting: 23.25 x 16.5 cm. The text is written in four columns above and below the painting, with a rectangular frame enclosing painting and text. Only the tail of the dragon violates the frame and protrudes into the right margin. The miniscule signature, raqam-e kamina fażl ʿali, is inscribed at the top of the painting, just above the dragon. In the center of the lower margin, written in Moʿin’s hand, is the signature raqam zad kamina moʿin-e moṣavver, and the date 1104/1693. Attributed by Jackson and Yohannan to Fażl ʿAli, and by Robinson to Moʿin with the assistance of Fażl ʿAli. The painting is in excellent Moʿin style, and except for the sky which appears at variance with the master’s work, no other details are distinguishable from Moʿin’s hand.

Painting references:
J&Y_1914, p.37 no.33 (not ill.).
Robinson, Cochran4_1972, p.79, no.33 and p.84, fig.19.
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, IV, p.346. Mohl, IV, p.261. Levy, pp.186-87.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: February 15, 2011 | Originally published: June 18, 2003

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York