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Iraj Is Slain by His Brothers, from the Shahnama of Firdausi (The “Kervorkian Shahnama”)

Accession Number
1963/1.41

Title
Iraj Is Slain by His Brothers, from the Shahnama of Firdausi (The “Kervorkian Shahnama”)

Artist(s)
Iranian

Artist Nationality
Iranian

Object Creation Date
circa 1460

Medium & Support
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper

Dimensions
10 1/2 in. x 7 in. ( 26.7 cm x 17.8 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
In contrast to the previous scene, which presents an idyllic paradise, this image is of royal fratricide. Iraj was the youngest son of Faridun, a hero who won the throne by overthrowing an evil sorcerer. Faridun’s own reign as shah, marked by justice and prosperity, lasted 500 years. Faridun divided his vast empire among his three sons, giving the Iranian and Arabian heartland to his youngest, Iraj; “Rum”* in the west to Salim; and “Turkestan and Chin” in the north and east to Tur. As Faridun weakened with age, Salim and Tur became increasingly jealous of Iraj, and finally they conspired to slay him. Although Iraj had been warned of their intentions, he went to their encampment and even offered them his share of the empire, but they cut him down in cold blood. This heinous deed set in motion centuries of rivalry and warfare between Iran and its neighbors—the underlying theme for the “Age of Heroes” in the Shahnama.
The hearts of that insensate pair were eager
To do their deed of shame; they proudly strode
Toward their royal brother’s tent. …
Tur said to him: “Since thou art youngest born
Why shouldst thou take the crown of power?” …
Iraj made answer in a holier strain:
“O mighty chieftain, lover of renown! …
I am aweary both of crown and throne,
And yield to you the diadem and signet. …“
Tur heard the words and little heeded them,
But, angry that Iraj should speak and caring
No jot for peace, he rose up and with a cry
And then advancing suddenly and grasping
The massive seat of gold, he smote Iraj.
Warner, I, 199–200
In this brilliant composition, the artist focuses our attention on the assassin Tur, while making clear the complicity of his brother Salim (the evil brothers wear matching helmets and blue tunics) and their followers. The unarmed victim Iraj protests in vain; his crown already lies on the ground at his side.
* Rum/Ruman: general terms for territories lying to the west of ancient Persia and their inhabitants.
———
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "A Medieval Masterpiece from Baghdad: the Ann Arbor Shahnama"
August 14 through December 19, 2004

Subject matter
Iraj is Slain by His Brothers

...The hearts of that insensate pair were eager
To do their deed of shame; they proudly strode
Toward their royal borhter's tent.

Tur said to him: "Since thou art youngest born
Why shouldst thou take the crown of power?"


Iraj made answer in a holier strain:--
"O mighty chieftain, lover of renown!
...I am aweary both of crown and throne, 
And yield to you the diadem and signet...."

Tur heard him speak but answered not a word;
His heart was full, his head was vaporing. 
He drew a dagger from his boot, he robed 
Iraj in blood, and with the keen bright blade 
Entrenched the royal breast. 
The lofty Cypress Fell, the imperial girdlestead was broken,


 

Physical Description
This painted miniature Shahnama page was made by the Shiraz and Timurid schools, ca. 1460 in Baghdad, Iraq. The painting is done in ink, opaque watercolor and gold leaf on paper. The scene, Iraj is Slain by His Brothers, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
Iranian Islamic painting styles after the Mongols
Iranian Islamic styles after the Mongols
Persian-Farsi (language)
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
gold leaf
gouache (paint)
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
tent
watercolor painting (technique)

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& Author Notes

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