The hero Rustam underwent seven tests of valor on his way to rescue Shah Kai Kavus. The artist has illustrated the climax of Rustam’s fourth course when the beautiful maiden who had beguiled him turned back into the witch she really was, to be dispatched by his sword. The sorcerer in the background, raising his hands in horror, has been borrowed from Turkmen artistic sources, while the profile of the sorceress is an exaggerated version of the conventional one for the old retainer or crone. Note the faces of animals and humans incorporated in the rocks, a favorite element of the early paintings of Tahmasp’s Shahnama.
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Title:"Rustam's Fourth Course, He Cleaves a Witch", Folio 120v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp
Author:Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (Iranian, Paj ca. 940/41–1020 Tus)
Artist:Painting attributed to Qadimi (Iranian, active ca. 1525–1565)
Geography:Made in Iran
Medium:Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Painting: H. 11 3/16 in. (28.5 cm) W. 7 5/16 in. (18.6 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)
Credit Line:Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970
Rustam's Fourth Course: He Cleaves a Witch
Rustam, the greatest of all the heroes of the Iranian national epic, was on an arduous mission to rescue the shah, held captive by the div ("demon") king of Mazandaran, when he stopped to rest at a welcome jewel-like oasis. There a witch appeared before him in the guise of a beautiful damsel. The hero thanked God for his good fortune, whereupon the maiden's face blackened, and when Rustam saw the hideous hag she really was, he cleaved her in two.
The artist has illustrated the climax of the adventure in a lively manner, with Rustam's faithful horse, Rakhsh, appearing eager to participate in the action. Rustam, always easily identifyable by his tiger-skin cuirass, is also depicted usually with a leopard-skin cap and often with red hair, as here, although neither is mentioned in the poem. Red hair may traditionally have been associated with exceptional strength. The sorcerers have been borrowed from those abounding in Turkoman album paintings, those in the background demonstrating by their gestures their horror at the unexpected turns of events. The lush foliage in the foreground and the swaying trees and variegated rocks at the horizon, seeming to struggle in organic growth out of the earth, are all inherited from the lively Turkoman idiom.
Marie Lukens Swietochowski in [Berlin 1981]
Inscription: In Persian in nasta’liq script, verses from the Shāhnama of Ferdowsī: end of the story گفتار اندرمنزل چهارم رستم (story of the fourth dome) and beginning of گفتار اندرمنزل پنجم رستم (the story of the fifth dome)
(Abu’l-Qasim Feardowsi,The Shāhnāmeh (The Book of Kings), ed. Djalal Khalqi- Muṭlagh, Mazda publishers in association with Bibliotheca Persica, Costa Mesa, California and New York, 1990, vol. 2, p. 31).
(A. Ghouchani, 2011)
Shah Tahmasp, Iran (until 1568; gifted to Selim II); Sultan Selim II (Turkish), Istanbul (from 1568); Sultan Selim III, Istanbul (by 1800); Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (French), Paris (by 1903–d. 1934); his son, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris and Geneva (1934–d. 1957); his son, Baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild, Paris and Geneva (1957–59); [ Stiebel Ltd., New York, until 1959; sold to Houghton]; Arthur A. Houghton Jr., New York (1959–70; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A King's Book of Kings: Persian Miniatures from Shah Tahmasp's Shahnama of 1528," May 4–December 31, 1972, no catalog.
Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 74.
Migeon, Gaston. "Exposition des Arts Musulmans au Musee des Arts Decoratifs." Les Arts no. 16 (1903).
Art News, 3, vol. 71 (1972). Color ill. detail on cover; b/w above masthead.
Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. pp. 148–51, ill. pp. 149–51, folio 120v (color, b/w).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 74, pp. 186–87, ill. p. 187 (b/w).
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. 88 (b/w).
Barry, Mike, and Stuart Cary Welch. "et l'Enigme de Behzad de Herat (1465–1535)." In L'Art Figuratif en Islam Medieval. Paris: Flammarion, 2004. pp. 246–47, ill. folio 120v (color).
Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp : The Persian Book of Kings. Madrid, 2011. pp. 14, 108, ill. folio 120v (color).
Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp : The Persian Book of Kings. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p. 150, ill. fol. 120v.
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