"Iskandar Kills the Monster of Habash," From a Book of Kings (Shahnama)
Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Northwestern Iran or Baghdad
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm)
W. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm)
Page: H. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
W. 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1969
Not on view
The Shahnama, the national epic of Persia, recounts the great deeds of Iranian kings from the creation of the world to the Arab conquest of the region in 642. In this image, which is contemporary with a number of the European unicorn images seen here, Iskandar (Alexander the Great) bravely battles a one-horned animal in the land of Habash (Ethiopia). In Persian legend, as in European, one-horned beasts were understood to be found in faraway lands. With its long horn, horselike body, and bearded chin, the Habash monster resembles a unicorn as imagined by Europeans. With hunters attacking from two sides, this scene brings to mind The Cloisters tapestry in which the unicorn defends itself.
Textile Museum, Washington (until 1969; sold to MMA)
Swietochowski, Marie, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Notable Acquisitions 1965-1975 (1965-1975). p. 133, ill. (b/w).
Simpson, Marianna. "The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts." PhD diss., Garland Publishing, Inc., 1979. p. 373.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 13, pp. 70-71, ill. p. 71 (b/w).