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The Birth of Rustam, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.43

Title
The Birth of Rustam, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Artist(s)
Iranian

Artist Nationality
Iranian

Object Creation Date
circa 1460

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

Dimensions
10 7/16 in. x 7 3/16 in. ( 26.5 cm x 18.2 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Rustam is one of the most beloved figures in the Shahnama. Like his grandfather Sam and father Zal before him, he embodies superhuman strength, courage, and endurance, as well as complete loyalty to the shah.
Rustam’s first appearance in the tale is at the moment of his birth, by Caesarian section. The artist unflinchingly depicts the operation, with Rustam half-emerged from his mother Rudaba’s side. The accompanying text reads:
“Why hast thou grown so wan?”
Rudaba answered:
“By night and day I cry for help. I lie
Sleepless and withered like a living corpse.
My time hath come but not deliverance.” …
There came an archimage,* one deft of hand,
Who made the moon-faced dame bemused with wine,
Then pierced her side while she was all unconscious,
And having turned the infant’s head aright
Delivered her uninjured. None had seen
A thing so strange. The babe was like a lion,
A hero tall and fair to look upon.
A day and night the mother lay asleep,
Bemused, unconscious. They the while sewed up
The wound and eased the anguish with the dressing. … Then they brought the babe
To her, extolling him as heavenly.
Warner, I, 320–22
* archimage: a great magi, i.e. a Zoroastrian priest, magician, or physician
———
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
The Birth of Rustam 

"Why hast thou grown so wan?"
Rudaba answered: 
"By night and day I cry for help. I lie 
Sleepless and withered like a living corpse.
My time hath come but not deliverance."

There came an archimage, one deft of hand, 
Who made the moon-faced damee bemused with wine, 
Then pierced her side while she was all unconsious, 
And having turned the infant's head aright
Delivered her uninjured. None had seen
A thing so strange. The babe was like a lion, 
A hero tall and fair to look upon.

A day and night the mother lay asleep, 
Bemused, unconscious. They the while sewed up
The wound and eased the anguish with the dressing. 

Then they brought the babe
To her, extolling him as heavenly. 
 

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 depicts the Birth of Rustam from the Shahnama, 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)
man
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
watercolor painting (technique)

13 Related Resources

Arts from Persia and Iran
(Part of: Ancient and Classical Civilizations)
Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Childbearing
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Shahnama, the Persian Book of Kings
(Part of: Shahnama, The Persian Book of Kings     )
The Age of Heroes 
(Part of: Shahnama, The Persian Book of Kings     )
Visual Cultures of Islam- Manuscripts 
(Part of: Visual Cultures of Islam )
Treatment and Healing
(Part of: AAHM)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved