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Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.51

Title
Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, 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 1/2 in. x 7 in. ( 26.7 cm x 17.8 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
After Kai Khusrau’s rescue and return to Iran, the war between Iran and Turan intensified, as Khusrau sought revenge for the murder of his father Siyawush. Although many heroes come and go in the Shahnama, this manuscript maintains a steady focus on the hero Rustam for the next four scenes. Here, Rustam is locked in single combat with Ashkabus, a champion of the Turanians. Firdausi’s verses ring with the boasts of the warriors:
A warrior named Ashkabus, whose voice
Was like a kettledrum’s, came forth to challenge
The Iranians, bent to lay some foeman’s head
In dust. He cried: “Which of you famous men
Will come to fight with me, that I may make
His blood to flow in streams?” …
Then peerless Rustam [cried]: “Senseless challenger!
Now I, foot-soldier as I am, will teach
Thee how to fight, O mounted warrior!
… Afoot one man
Is worth three hundred cavaliers like thee …”
He marked the pride
Of Ashkabus in his fine steed, and shot
An arrow at its breast; the charger fell
Headforemost. Rustam laughed and cried aloud:
"Sit by thy noble comrade! Prithee nurse
Its head and rest thee from the fight awhile."
Then Ashkabus, his body quivering,
… strung up his bow,
And showered shafts on Rustam, who exclaimed:
"In vain thou weariest thy wicked soul,
Thine arms, and body."
Choosing from his girdle
A shaft of poplar wood he [Rustam] drew it forth
Bright-pointed, feathered with four eagle-plumes;
Then too his bow of Chach in hand and …
…loosed and struck the breast
Of Ashkabus. …
Both the hosts
Beheld that fight.
Warner, III, 179–81
———
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
A warrior named Ashkabus, whose voice
Was like a kettledrum’s, came forth to challenge
The Iranians, bent to lay some foeman’s head
In dust. He cried: “Which of you famous men
Will come to fight with me, that I may make
His blood to flow in streams?” …
Then peerless Rustam [cried]: “Senseless challenger!
Now I, foot-soldier as I am, will teach
Thee how to fight, O mounted warrior!
… Afoot one man
Is worth three hundred cavaliers like thee …”
He marked the pride
Of Ashkabus in his fine steed, and shot
An arrow at its breast; the charger fell
Headforemost. Rustam laughed and cried aloud:
"Sit by thy noble comrade! Prithee nurse
Its head and rest thee from the fight awhile."
Then Ashkabus, his body quivering,
… strung up his bow,
And showered shafts on Rustam, who exclaimed:
"In vain thou weariest thy wicked soul,
Thine arms, and body."
Choosing from his girdle
A shaft of poplar wood he [Rustam] drew it forth
Bright-pointed, feathered with four eagle-plumes;
Then too his bow of Chach in hand and …
…loosed and struck the breast
Of Ashkabus. …
Both the hosts
Beheld that fight.

Physical Description
This Persian miniature is attributed to the Shiraz and Timurid schools, ca. 1460. The painting is done in ink, opaque watercolor and gold leaf on paper. The scene, Rustam Fights with Ashkabus, 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
Birds
Iranian Islamic painting styles after the Mongols
Iranian Islamic styles after the Mongols
Persian-Farsi (language)
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
calligraphy (visual works)
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
watercolor painting (technique)

10 Related Resources

Arts from Persia and Iran
(Part of: Ancient and Classical Civilizations)
Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Introduction to Manuscripts and Early Print
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Adventure
(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

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