Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript G, folio 299

Eskandar and the Sage Ḵeżr Seek the Fountain of Life

The artist’s portrayal of the land of darkness is analogous to his representation of the well into which Bižan was cast (cf. ff. 176v and 184), only turned laterally. It is as if Ḵeżr and Eskandar were travelling in a dark cavern under a mountain, from which the front surface was removed to permit the observers, within and outside the picture, to follow the events in the cavern. The procession moves from right to left through a dark tunnel, led by the Prophet Ḵeżr mounted on a mule, and portrayed with a white veil over his face and a flaming halo, as is typical for representations of prophets in Persian painting. He is followed in the darkness by Eskandar astride a large white mare, a mounted torch bearer, and a bearded flag bearer, also mounted. A very diminutive foal keeps pace alongside Eskandar’s mount. The top half of the composition, the area above the “tunnel”, is composed of craggy rock terrain with a single tree and a few wisps of shrubbery, behind which is a sky with clouds. Tucked away among the rocks are two groups of Eskandar’s troops, five on the left and four on the right, who seem to be peering down into the “tunnel” below.

Painting: 24 x 16.5 cm. The text is written in four columns above and below the painting, with a rectangular frame enclosing painting and text. There is no significant damage and no sign of retouching. The miniscule signature, raqam-e kamina fażl ʿali, is inscribed in the top left corner of the painting. In the center of the lower margin, written in Moʿin’s hand, is the signature raqam zad 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 in excellent Moʿin style, and except for the sky and possibly the faces in the upper left which appears at variance with the master’s work, no other details are distinguishable from Moʿin’s hand.

For another painting by Moʿin from the same sequel, see Ms. D, folio 80.

Painting references:
J&Y_1914, pp.37-38 no.37 (not ill.).
Robinson, Cochran4_1972, p.79, no.37 and p.85, fig.21.
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, VI, pp.158-62; Mohl, V, pp.173ff. Levy, pp.245-46.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: February 8, 2011. | Originally published: June 18, 2003

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York