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The Div Akwan Flings Rustam into the Sea, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.53

Title
The Div Akwan Flings Rustam into the Sea, 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
Reports had come to Shah Kai Khusrau of a mysterious beast ravaging the herds in the countryside. Recognizing that it was a magical div (demon), he summoned Rustam to deal with the problem. Rustam soon came upon the creature, but every time he tried to lasso or spear it, it disappeared. Exhausted,
He watered Rakhsh and sank to sleep fordone,
But first ungirthed his steed, took off the saddle
To use its poplar pummel as his pillow,
And spread beside the spring his saddle-cloth
For sleep while Rakhsh to pasturage sped forth.
When from afar Akwan saw Rustam sleeping
He came as swift as wind, delved round about
The place where Rustam lay, and raised it skyward.

Then said Akwan to Rustam in his plight:
“Now, elephantine chieftain! take thy choice
To fall upon the mountains or the waves;
So whither shall I fling thee far from men?”
The elephantine hero communed thus:
“In every case naught bettereth artifice.
He will do contrary to what I say;
He will not recognise an oath or keep
A pact. If I say, ‘Throw me in the sea,’
Then will this evil-natured Ahriman*
Fling me upon the mountains, dash me there
To pieces, and destroy me. I must use
Some scheme to make him fling me into water. …”
Warner, III, 276–77
The encounter with the Div Akwan is the only moment in the Shahnama where Rustam is overpowered and must rely on his wits alone to survive. The artist of this page has managed to suggest both Rustam’s helplessness and his resolve: the lion-faced Akwan holds Rustam overhead as easily as a waiter manages a tray, while Rustam grasps his sword to prepare for the worst. (It may appear that Akwan is wounded due to some damage to the page.)
* Ahriman, sometimes translated as “the devil,” is the destructive force according to Zoroastrian teachings.
———
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
He watered Rakhsh and sank to sleep fordone,
But first ungirthed his steed, took off the saddle
To use its poplar pummel as his pillow,
And spread beside the spring his saddle-cloth
For sleep while Rakhsh to pasturage sped forth.
When from afar Akwan saw Rustam sleeping
He came as swift as wind, delved round about
The place where Rustam lay, and raised it skyward.

Then said Akwan to Rustam in his plight:
“Now, elephantine chieftain! take thy choice
To fall upon the mountains or the waves;
So whither shall I fling thee far from men?”
The elephantine hero communed thus:
“In every case naught bettereth artifice.
He will do contrary to what I say;
He will not recognise an oath or keep
A pact. If I say, ‘Throw me in the sea,’
Then will this evil-natured Ahriman*
Fling me upon the mountains, dash me there
To pieces, and destroy me. I must use
Some scheme to make him fling me into water. …”

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, The Div Akwan Flings Rustam into the Sea, 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
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
calligraphy (visual works)
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
miniatures (paintings)
seas
shahs
watercolor painting (technique)

9 Related Resources

Arts from Persia and Iran
(Part of: Ancient and Classical Civilizations)
Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Death Personified
(Part of 5 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

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