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Rustam Slays the White Div, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.45

Title
Rustam Slays the White Div, 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 1/8 in. ( 26.5 cm x 18.1 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
In Rustam’s time, Kai Kaus inherited the throne of Iran. Not content with his vast empire and great wealth, he led his army against Mazandaran, the realm of the supernatural divs (demons). Kai Kaus and his warriors were quickly defeated and imprisoned. Word of their plight reached Rustam, who set out alone to rescue his king, fighting lions, dragons, and witches in his path. Rustam’s final battle was with the great White Div, the leader of the div armies. Rustam had been advised by his reluctant guide Ulad that divs are weakest in daylight.
So Rustam paused till noon, then, having bound
Ulad fast with the lasso, mounted [his horse] Rakhsh,
Unsheathed his warlike Crocodile [his mace], and shouted
His name like thunder. …
Thence radiant as the sun he went to seek
The White Div, found a pit like Hell, but saw not
The sorcerer for the murk. …
He rubbed his eyelids, bathed his eyes, and searched
The cave till in the gloom he saw a Mountain
That blotted all within, with sable face
And hair like the lion’s Mane—a world to see! …
They wrestled, tearing out each other’s flesh,
Till all the ground was puddled with their blood. …
He reached out, clutched the div, raised him neck-high,
And dashed the life-breath from him on the ground,
Then with a dagger stabbed him to the heart …
Warner, II, 59–60
Thus Rustam restored the rightful (if overly ambitious) shah to his throne, for which he was richly rewarded. It was the first of many times when Rustam came to the rescue of Kai Kaus.
As usual in this manuscript, the artist strives to be faithful to the text, including Rustam’s horse and guide in the painting. When later critics vandalized the image, they defaced the figure of Rustam.
———
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
Rustam Slays the White Div 

So Rustam paused till noon, then, having bound 
Ulad fast with the lasso, mounted Rakhsh, 
Unsheathed his warlike Crocodile, and shouted
His name like thunder....

Thence radiant as the sun he went to seek 
The White Div, found a put like Hell, but saw not
The sorcerer for the murk.

He rubbed his eyelids, bathed his eyes, and searched 
The cave till in the gloom he saw a Mountain 
That blotted all within, with sable face 
And hair like lion's mane--a world to see!

They wrestled, tearing out each other's flesh, 
Till all the ground was puddled with their blood....

...He reached out, clutched the div, raised him neck-high, 
And dashed the life-breath from him on the ground, 
Then with a dagger stabbed him to the heart....

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 Rustam Slays the White Div from 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
Arabic alphabet
Iranian Islamic painting styles after the Mongols
Iranian Islamic styles after the Mongols
Persian-Farsi (language)
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
caves
gold leaf
gouache (paint)
miniatures (paintings)
shahs

13 Related Resources

Arts from Persia and Iran
(Part of: Ancient and Classical Civilizations)
Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Introduction to Manuscripts and Early Print
(Part of 2 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 )

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display