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"Isfandiyar's Third Course: He Slays a Dragon", Folio 434v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp

Author:
Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Artist:
Painting attributed to Qasim ibn 'Ali (active ca. 1525–60)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Date:
ca. 1530
Geography:
Iran, Tabriz
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
Painting: H. 11 in. (27.9 cm) W. 10 5/16 in. (26.2 cm) Page: H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm) W. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm) Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm) Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970
Accession Number:
1970.301.51
Not on view
This dramatic image illustrates the third of seven challenges, or courses, that Prince Isfandiyar underwent en route to freeing his sisters from captivity in Turan. Learning that he would encounter a dragon on his perilous path, Isfandiyar ordered a horse-drawn cart with a box in which he could hide and from which spears projected. Here, the dragon has appeared and is sucking the horses into its maw, soon to be impaled on the spears and slashed by Isfandiyar’s sword. The tightly coiled dragon slithering through the rocks and breathing fire lends drama and menace to the scene, which otherwise contains many elements associated with Turkmen painting, such as the writhing bare bushes and squat figures, competently rendered by Qasim ibn 'Ali, an artist from Shiraz who was active at the Safavid court in the second quarter of the sixteenth century.
Shah Tahmasp, Iran (until 1568; gifted to Selim II); Sultan Selim II, Istanbul (from 1568); Sultan Selim III, Istanbul (by 1800); Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Paris (by 1903–d. 1934); his son, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris and Pregny, near Geneva (by 1955–d. 1957); [ Stiebel Ltd., New York, until 1959; sold to Houghton]; Arthur A. Houghton Jr., New York (1959–70; gifted to MMA)
Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. p. 195.

Dickson, Martin, and Stuart Cary Welch. The Houghton Shahnameh. Vol. vols. I & II. Cambridge, Mass. and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1981. vol. II, ill. pl. 201 (b/w).

Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). Back cover (color).

Canby, Sheila R. "The Persian Book of Kings." In The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. Madrid, 2011. pp. 13, 221, ill. (color), folio 434v.

Canby, Sheila R. "The Persian Book of Kings." In The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. New York, 2014. p. 263, ill. fol. 434v.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 138E, pp. 7, 202-208, ill. p. 206 (color).



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