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Rustam Takes Prisoner the Khan of China, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.52

Title
Rustam Takes Prisoner the Khan of China, 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
In their ongoing battle with the Iranians, the Turanians sought help from many allies, including the rulers of Hind (the Indus River Valley region; modern Pakistan) and Chin (“China”; apparently a reference to Turkic tribes of Central Asia who lived along the trade route with China proper). In this episode, the Khan of Chin has just witnessed Rustam’s prowess on the battlefield and attempted to sue for peace, on the grounds that the people of Chin are blameless in the original cause of the war—the murder of Siyawush. Rustam will have none of this last-minute excuse making, saying,
“Ye set your faces to lay waste Iran
What need is there for talk and blandishments?”
… Rustam … spurred on [his horse] Rakhsh and cried:
“I vanquish lions and apportion crowns,
Am strong, and have a lasso on mine arm. …
Whenas the Khan of Chin shall see my lasso,
When that fierce Lion shall behold mine armlet,
He will be taken and distaste e’en life.”
He flung the lasso coiled and took the heads
Of cavaliers, neared that white elephant,
And then the Khan of Chin, grown desperate,
Smote with the goad the creature’s head and, roaring
Like thunder …
Took and hurled forth at Rustam deft of hand
A double-headed battle dart, in hope
To worst him and to take his noble head;
But Rustam, scathless, flung his lasso high,
Dragged from his elephant the Khan of Chin
Noosed by the neck, and dashed him to the ground.
Warner, III, 229–30
The artist of this page has chosen to show the very moment when Rustam ensnares the Khan (shown here dressed in a red tunic over his armor and wearing a crown) with his lasso and pulls him down from his elephant. Although Firdausi sets the scene as a crowded battlefield, the painter has drawn both armies aside, like curtains, to allow Rustam and his horse to emerge as the dominant element of the composition.
———
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 Takes Prisoner the Khan of China

When Rustam heard he spurred on Rakhsh and cried:--
"I vanquish lions and apportion crowns, 
Am strong, and have a lasso on mine arm.

Whenas the Khan of Chin shall see my lasso, 
When that fierce Lion shall behold mine armlet, 
He will be taken and distaste e'en life."
He flung the lasso coiled and took the heads 
Of cavaliers, neared that white elephant,
And then the Khan of Chin, grown desperate, 
Smote with the goad the creature's head and, roaring...

...Took and hurled forth at Rustam deft of hand 
A double-headed battle-dart in hope
To worst him and to take his noble head;
But Rustam, scathless, flung his lasso high, 
Dragged from his elephant the Khan of Chin
Noosed by the neck, and dashed him to the ground...

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 Takes Prisoner the Khan of China, 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
battle
calligraphy (visual works)
elephants
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
soldiers
watercolor painting (technique)

11 Related Resources

Arts from Persia and Iran
(Part of: Ancient and Classical Civilizations)
Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Combat, Battle, Warfare
(Part of 3 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