Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | Shahnama of Ferdowsi

Manuscript G, folio 347

Bahrām Gur Kills the Dragon that Devoured a Youth

The large serpentine dragon is portrayed diagonally in the foreground with its tail extended well into the right margin. It has a snake-like head with an open mouth that reveals large canine teeth and a slithering tongue tipped with fire. Its spotted body is long and undulating with flame-like appendages flickering from its side and feet. The animal is standing in a shallow ravine, bounded on the sides by craggy rock formations. To the right, on one of these ridges, Bahrām Gur stands with bow in hand, having just let loose an arrow. The arrow has found its mark and can be seen protruding from the dragon’s chest. Bahrām wears a knee-length coat, arm and leg guards, and a jeweled crown with a feather and black aigrette of sovereignty; bowcase, quivers, sword, and dagger hang from his belt. Emerging from the center of the crown is a tapered point with a small fluttering pendant, as if helmet and crown were merged into a single piece of headgear. The forequarters of the shah’s white horse, and a groom shown in profile, appear behind the ridge in the upper right. This diverges somewhat from the text which states that Bahrām was mounted when he shot the dragon, and dismounted only to slit its body open. In the left background, also behind the ridge, are the heads of six warriors holding standards, who keenly observe the confrontation. One places his forefinger to his lip in astonishment.

Painting (without extensions): 23.75 x 16.5 cm. The text is written in four columns above and below the painting, with a rectangular frame enclosing illustration and text, except on the right side where the dragon’s tail protrudes into the margin. The painting has suffered some minor abrasion, and a patch has been placed over a damaged section of Bahrām’s back. The only signature on the page, raqam-e kamina fażl ʿali, is inscribed at the top on the sky. The panting is attributed by Jackson and Yohannan to Fażl ʿAli, by Stchoukine to Moʿin, and by Robinson to Moʿin with the assistance of Fażl ʿAli. Although the painting is not signed by him, it is in excellent Moʿin style.

For other paintings by Moʿin illustrating Bahrām Gur killing dragons, see folio 354 and Ms. E, no.10.

Painting references:
J&Y_1914, p.38 no.40 (not ill.).

Robinson, Cochran4_1972, p.79, no.40 (not ill.).
Cambridge Shahnameh Project
Text references: Warner, VII, pp.42-43; Mohl, V, p.488; Levy, p.309.

Robert Eng
Last Updated: February 3, 2011 | Originally published: June 18, 2003

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York