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Discussion about conflict and power

1 Item in this Learning Collection

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The Death of Dara, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.64

Title
The Death of Dara, 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
One of the most famous episodes in the life of Alexander the Great—known in Persian as Sikandar or Iskandar—occurred in 330 B.C.E., during his long march in pursuit of Darius, the last monarch of the Achmenid Persian empire. Darius (Dara, in Persian) had fled into northern Afghanistan, but he was betrayed and murdered by his own men, who abandoned his body in the desert. When Alexander came upon the body he cradled Darius’ head in his lap, and cried at the loss of so worthy an opponent. The great Persian king opened his eyes and spoke once more, naming Alexander as his successor. It is a stirring tale that most modern historians reject as myth-making from the pen of Alexander’s historians, but perfectly in keeping with the valorization of personal honor in battle that characterizes the Shahnama.
The ministers came to Sikandar, saying:
“O Shah victorious and endowed with knowledge!
We have surprised and slain thine enemy;
The crown and throne of chiefs are his no more.”
The Ruman’s heart and soul
Were filled with rage and grief. On drawing nigh
He gazed upon Dara and saw his breast
All blood, his countenance like fenugreek,
Gave orders to alight and set a guard
O’er those two ministers, and then, dismounting
As swift as wind himself, took on his lap
The wounded monarch’s head. …
Warner, VI, 52–53
Alexander's conquest of Persia brought an end to the Achemenid Dynasty and initiated a century and a half of Greek rule. Although Alexander was long reviled in the region, later historians invented a tale that he was descended from the Persian royal line through his mother, thus removing the stigma of his being an outsider. He plays a major role in the Shahnama as the first shah of the "Historical Age."
———
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
The Death of Dara

The ministers came to Sikandar, saying:--
'O Shah victorious and endowed with knowledge!
We have surprised and slain thine enemy;
The crown and throne of chiefs are his no more."

The Ruman's heart and soul
Were filled with rage and gried. On drawing nigh
He gazed upon Dara and saw his breast 
All blood, his countenance like fenugreek, 
Gave orders to alight and set a guard
O'er those two ministers, and then, dismounting 
As swift as wind himself, took on his lap
The wounded monarch's head...
 

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 Death of Dara, 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
death
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
watercolor painting (technique)

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(Part of: Shahnama, The Persian Book of Kings     )
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(Part of: Pioneer High School Tour)
The Historic Age
(Part of: Shahnama, The Persian Book of Kings     )
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(Part of: Visual Cultures of Islam )

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display