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Rustam Shoots Asfandiyar, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.62

Title
Rustam Shoots Asfandiyar, 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 his many victories on the battlefield, Asfandiyar grew proud and demanded that his father Shah Gushtasp abdicate in his favor. Asfandiyar’s resentment at having been wrongfully imprisoned made him distrustful of his father—for good reason. Gushtasp not only refused to cede the throne, but he assured his son’s death by giving him an impossible task: he commanded Asfandiyar to bring the hero Rustam to court in chains. Rustam tried to reason with Asfandiyar, to no avail. The two met on a field outside Rustam’s castle, where Asfandiyar foolishly goaded Rustam with insults.
Then Rustam quickly fitted to his bow
The tamarisk-shaft …;
He struck Asfandiyar full in the eyes,
And all the world grew dark before the chief;
The straight-stemmed Cypress [Asfandiyar] bent, intelligence
And Grace abandoned him. The pious prince
Fell prone, his bow of Chach dropped from his hands.
He clutched his black steed by the mane and crest;
The battlefield was reddened with his blood.
Said Rustam: “Thou hast brought this evil seed
To fruit! Thou art the man who said’st: ‘My form
Is brazen, and I dash high heaven to earth.’
Yet through one arrow hast thou turned from strife,
And fallen swooning on thy noble charger.”
Warner, V, 243–44
Before dying, Asfandiyar acknowledged that he had been killed by his own father’s machinations. He absolved Rustam of any guilt and entrusted to him his own son to raise.
The artist has shown two equestrian warriors face to face; each is splendidly arrayed, but we recognize Rustam by his familiar chain-mail armor and his now-white beard. The gestures of both figures are restrained and dignified, as appropriate for their high stature.
———
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 Shoots Asfandiyar

Then Rustam quickly fitted to his bow
The tamarisk-shaft as the Simurgh had bidden; 
He struck Asfandiyar full in the eyes,
And all the world grew dark before that chief;
The straight-stemmed Cypress bent, intelligence
And Grace abandoned him. The pious prince
Fell prone, his bow of Chach dropped from his hands. 

He clutched his black steed by the mane and crest;
The battlefield was reddened with his blood.
Said Rustam: "Thou hast brought this evil seed 
To fruit! Thou art the man who said'st: 'My form 
Is brazen, and I dash high heaven to earth.' 
Yet through one arrow hast thou turned from strife, 
And fallen swooning on thy noble charger."

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 Shoots Asfandiyar, 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
calligraphy (visual works)
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
miniatures (paintings)
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 and Dying
(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 )

& Author Notes

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