"Iskandar Kills the Habash Monster", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi

Author Abu'l Qasim Firdausi Iranian

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.

"Iskandar Kills the Habash Monster", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi, Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (Iranian, Paj ca. 940/41–1020 Tus), Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper

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