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Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.63

Title
Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies, 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
When Rustam’s half-brother Shaghad was born, it was foretold that he would destroy the entire clan. To avoid that tragedy, he was sent as a child to Kabul. Shaghad thrived there, rising to become the king’s son-in-law and chief advisor. Kabul had paid an annual tribute fee to Rustam, but the king grew to resent his vassal status. Shaghad and the king “plotted till they soared above the moon in their imaginations.” They invited Rustam to a feast and then to hunt, on grounds that they had prepared with pits lined with “hunting spears, swords, darts, and scimitars.” Rustam set out eagerly to the hunt, when suddenly his horse Rakhsh shied.
Rakhsh sniffed fresh earth, spun like a ball, and shied,
Suspicious of the smell, and tore the ground. . .
Two of his feet went through;
He had no purchase; all below was spear
And sword; no pluck availed; escape was none;
And so the haunches of the mighty Rakhsh,
And Rustam’s legs and bosom, were impaled;
Yet in his manhood he [Rustam] uplifted him,
And from the bottom bravely gained the brim.
When Rustam wounded as he was looked forth,
And saw the hostile visage of Shaghad,
He recognised the author of the plot,
[Rustam then asked Shaghad to string his bow, so that he could protect himself from wild beasts as he lay dying.]
Shaghad drew near, uncased the bow, and strung it.
He drew it once, then laid it down by Rustam,
And laughed exulting at his brother’s death.
The matchless hero clutched it lustily,
Though tortured by the anguish of his wounds,
What while Shaghad in terror at those arrows
Made haste to shield himself behind a tree . . .
When Rustam saw this he put forth his hands,
Sore wounded as he was, and loosed a shaft.
He pinned his brother and the tree together . . .
Warner, V, 270–72
With the ignominious death of the great and noble Rustam, so too ends the “Age of Heroes” in the Shahnama.
———
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 Shaghad and Dies

Rakhsh sniffed fresh earth, spun like a ball, and shied, 
Suspicious of the smell, and tore the ground...

Two of his feet went through;
He had no purchase; all below was spear 
And sword; no pluck availed; escape was none;
And so the haunches of the mighty Rakhsh, 
Yet in his manhood he uplifted him, 
And from the bottom bravely gained the brim.

Shaghad drew near, uncased the bow, and strung it.
He drew it once, then laid it down by Rustam,
And laughed exulting at his brother's death.
The matchless hero clutched it lustily, 
Though tortured by the anguish of his wounds, 
What while Shaghad in terror at those arrows
Made haste to shield himself behind a tree...

When Rustam saw this he put forth his hands, 
Sore wounded as he was, and loosed a shaft.
He pinned his brother and the tree together...
 

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 Slays Shaghad and Dies, 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
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)
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

All Rights Reserved

On display