Folio from a Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; recto: text, Faridun captures Zahhak; verso: Faridun strikes Zahhak with the ox-headed mace

citation

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black nasta’liq script; recto: text: Faridun captures Zahhak, 4 columns with illuminated panels and triangular illuminations, 12 lines of text written diagonally; verso: illustration and text: Faridun strikes Zahhak with the ox-headed mace, inscription, six lines of text.
Border: The text and the painting are set in gold, green, and blue rulings on gold-sprinkled paper.

Maker(s)
Artist: Attributed to Sultan-Muhammad, active ca. 1520s-1540s
Patron: Shah Tahmasp (1524 - 1576)
Historical period(s)
Safavid period, Reign of Shah Tahmasp, circa 1525
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W (verso painting): 27.2 × 17.4 cm (10 11/16 × 6 7/8 in)
Geography
Iran, Tabriz
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F1996.2
On View Location
Freer Gallery 04: Engaging the Senses: Art in the Islamic World
Classification(s)
Manuscript
Type

Detached manuscript folio

Keywords
epic, Faridun, illumination, Iran, mace, Safavid period (1501 - 1722), Shahnama, WWII-era provenance, Zahhak
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Sotheby's (London)
Arthur Houghton
Baron Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild French, 1845 - 1934
Baron Maurice de Rothschild French, 1881 - 1957

Description

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black nasta'liq script; recto: text: Faridun captures Zahhak, 4 columns with illuminated panels and triangular illuminations, 12 lines of text written diagonally; verso: illustration and text: Faridun strikes Zahhak with the ox-headed mace, inscription, six lines of text.
Border: The text and the painting are set in gold, green, and blue rulings on gold-sprinkled paper.

Inscription(s)

On the crenellation: Be Kam to bada hame kar-i to khudavand gitti negahdar to

“I Hope the God of the universe will be your protector/ I hope you obtain what you desire"

Label

The Shahnama, the Persian national epic, was composed about 1010 by the poet Firdawsi. Recounting the history and myths of Iran from the rise of the legendary Pishdaddian dynasty to the fall of the historical Sasanians in 651 C.E., the text's colorful mixture of fact and fantasy provided artists with many obvious subjects for pictorial representation.

The hero Feridun enters the story towards the beginning, when the evil king Zahak dreams that Feridun would strike him down with an ox-headed mace and put an end to his reign of darkness. Feridun, whose father had been killed by Zahak, wages various campaigns against the tyrant and even manages to enthrone himself in Zahak's castle. When Zahak discovers this, enraged and wielding a scimitar, he lowers himself through a window into the castle's interior to slay Feridun, who is holding court with some of his female companions. Before Zahak can complete his grisly task, as predicted, Feridun strikes him down with his ox-headed mace. As he is about to deliver a second and final blow, the angel Surush swoops down, proclaiming, "His time has not yet come," and tells Feridun to put Zahak in chains and take him to Mount Damavand to perish.

This bold, tightly conceived painting with its elegant, sinuous lines and vibrant palette, energized by exquisite details, brilliantly captures the excitement and tension of the moment. Reverberating throughout the composition, spiraling arabesques, which are counter-balanced by the heavy, off-centered throne and the "weight" of the architecture, accentuate the drama of Feridun's victory over Zahak, and by extension, that of good over evil—a central theme in the Shahnama.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 152-153.
  • Repertoire des Biens Spoilies en France durant la Guerre 1939-45 (List of Property Removed From France During the War 1939-1945). vol. VII, Berlin. cat. 398, p. 34.
  • Martin Bernard Dickson Stuart Cary Welch. The Houghton Shahnameh. 2 vols., Cambridge, MA. cat. 23, fig. 95.
  • Stuart Cary Welch. A King's Book of Kings: The Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York. pp. 112-115.
  • James T. Ulak. A Decade of Remarkable Growth: Acquisitions by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. vol. 166 no. 548 London, 2007. p. 43.
  • .
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum