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Bahram Gur Hunting with Azada, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.68

Title
Bahram Gur Hunting with Azada, 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
The Sassanian Shah Bahram V, who ruled from 420 to 428 C.E., is much celebrated in Persian tradition for his passion for women and hunting. (His favorite prey was the gur, a wild ass; hence his nickname.) This episode is a small homily on the dangers of mixing the two: One day Bahram Gur went out hunting with his paramour, the lovely Azada, a court musician. When they came upon a herd of gazelle, she challenged him to “change a buck into a doe and a doe into a buck.” Swiftly, he sliced off a buck’s horns with one shot of his bow and then hit a doe with two arrows in the head, giving her two prongs. He then set his sights on a third gazelle.
… The creature scratched
Its ear. Forthwith within his bow of Chach
He set an arrow and pinned head and ear
And foot together; but Azada’s heart
Was vexed about the deer. . .
Bahram stretched out,
Flung her from saddle headlong to the ground,
And made his dromedary trample her,
Besmearing hands and breast and lute with blood.
Warner, VI, 382–84
The unfortunate Azada lies prone in her blood-red robe beneath the camel’s feet, her harp flung aside. More than her plight, however, the artist has lavished his care and skill on the depiction of animals. In contrast to the formulaic (if beautiful) horses that appear in other scenes, here the camel is drawn at a convincing scale relative to its rider and with great sympathy. The pose of the stumbling gazelle is entirely convincing and the fleeing rabbits are full of energy. Freed from the restrictions of the conventional combat and audience scenes, the artist has produced a fresh and lively picture.
———
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 creature scratched
Its ear. Forthwith within his bow of Chach
He set an arrow and pinned head and ear
And foot together; but Azada’s heart
Was vexed about the deer. . .
Bahram stretched out,
Flung her from saddle headlong to the ground,
And made his dromedary trample her,
Besmearing hands and breast and lute with blood.
 

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, Bahram Gur Hunting with Azada, 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
Musical instruments
Persian-Farsi (language)
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
calligraphy (visual works)
camels
deer
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
lutes
rabbits
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)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Adventure
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Shahnama, the Persian Book of Kings
(Part of: Shahnama, The Persian Book of Kings     )
The Historic Age
(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