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Talhand Confronts His Brother Gav on the Battlefield, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Accession Number
1963/1.72

Title
Talhand Confronts His Brother Gav on the Battlefield, 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 story of the brothers Talhand and Gav is a subplot to the biography of Shah Nushirwan, seen in the previous illustration. Nushirwan was challenged by the King of Hind (India) to a game of chess, to determine who should pay tribute to whom. The Indian ambassador explained that the game originated in a dispute over the throne between two half-brothers, Talhand and Gav. Gav was the elder and sought to avoid warfare. Twice after his victories on the field he allowed Talhand to return home to lick his wounds, but the third battle took place on a field between a river and a moat; there was no place to retreat. Exhausted, Talhand died astride his elephant. Afterward, Gav invented chess to explain to his grieving mother what happens when a king places himself in a position where there is no escape—checkmate.
. . . Those illustrious kings,
All dudgeon and vindictiveness, then saddled
Two elephants, each at his army’s center
Took up his station, and assumed command.
The earth grew pitch-like, heaven azure-dim
With all the spears and silken bannerets,
While air was ebon with the armies’ dust.
While at the thud of battle-ax, of mace,
And sword, a red reek went up from the deep, . . .
. . . the hosts advanced,
Troop after troop, while all the plain was filled
With livers, brains, and hearts.
Warner, VII, 416
Visually, this is one of the most ambitious compositions in the manuscript. It takes a moment to find the brothers amongst the chaos on the battlefield: the elder Gav, dark-complexioned and with a white beard, is seated on his elephant at upper right, while the younger Talhand is at center left, each half-cropped at the picture’s edge. Instead of depicting a symbolic encounter between two individuals—as was the pattern for Iranian heroes and their Turanians enemies—the artist has seized this opportunity to create real movement and drama, capturing the horror of a battle whose outcome is still uncertain.
———
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
Talhand Confronts His Brother Gav on the Battlefield

...Those illustrious kings, 
All dudgeon and vindictiveness, then saddled
Two elephants, each at his army's centre
Took up his station, and assumed command.
The earth grew pitch-like, heaven azure-dim
With all the spears and silken bannerets, 
While air was ebon with the armies' dust.

While at the thud of battle-ax, of mace, 
And sword, a red reek went up from the deep,

...the hosts advanced,
Troop after troop, while all the plain was filled 
With livers, brains, and hearts.

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, Talhand Confronts His Brother Gav on the Battlefield, 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
Figures
Iranian Islamic painting styles after the Mongols
Iranian Islamic styles after the Mongols
Persian-Farsi (language)
Shahnama
Timurid
Timurid painting styles
battle
calligraphy (visual works)
elephants
gold leaf
gouaches (paintings)
hills
horses
men on horseback
miniatures (paintings)
shahs
watercolor painting (technique)

13 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)
Introduction to Manuscripts and Early Print
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Combat, Battle, Warfare
(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