When Kai Khusrau's letter arrives, Tus and his clan depart, leaving Fariburz in command of the Iranian army. After a one-month truce, another battle ensues, with Giv on the right and Fariburz in the center. In due course the Turanians break through the center, and Fariburz is forced to retreat. Although the tide is turning against the Iranians, Giv and his men stay the course, determined to fight beneath the banner of Kava, the symbolic apron of the blacksmith who rebelled against the evil tyrant Zahhak.
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Title:"The Battle of Pashan Begins", Folio 243v 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 'Abd al-Vahhab (Iranian)
Geography:Made in Iran, Tabriz
Medium:Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Painting: H. 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm) W. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 cm) Page: H. 18 11/16 in. (47.5 cm) W. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm) Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970
The Battle of Pashan Begins
This battle followed a month's truce between the Iranians and Turanians. While the epic describes the varied fortunes of first one side, and then the other, with particular emphasis on the heroic actions of Giv and his son Bizhan, the artist has chosen to illustrate the less personal description of the battle's beginning.
"The din of trumpet, drum and bell shook heaven,
While what with chargers' crests, reins, hands, and swords,
Bows, battle-axes, lances, maces, bucklers,
And lassos, gnats could find no way. "The world,"
Thou wouldst have said, "is in the Dragon's maw,
Or heaven level with earth!"
The clue to the convincing portrayal of the turmoil and confusion of the battle lies, paradoxically, in the masterly organization of the composition. Rhythms and counter-rhythms of arched bodies, bent bows, curved swords, and waving plumes lead the eye around the painting, and encourage the viewer to savor the drawing of a graceful steed here, or a delicate pattern there. Particularly compelling is the arrangement of the elephants, each carrying a warrior within a towering howdah. As they appear to move inexorably towards the center from the edges of the composition, the warriors between become ever more tightly crushed together, spilling out above and below. While the hand of Painter C is discernible, particularly in his unmistakable faces with their tiny mouths, close-set eyes, and round full chins, a younger master, perhaps Muzaffar 'Ali, contributed to the overall design and certain parts of the painting.
Marie Lukens Swietochowski in [Berlin 1981]
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. 77.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bazm and Razm: Feast and Fight in Persian Art," February 17–May 31, 2015, no catalogue.
Migeon, Gaston. "Exposition des Arts Musulmans au Musee des Arts Decoratifs." Les Arts no. 16 (1903).
Levy, Ruben, ed. The Epic of the Kings : Shah-nama, the National Epic of Persia, by Ferdowski. UNESCO collection of representative works: Persian heritage series; [no. 3]. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1967. pp. 126–28.
Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. p. 193.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 77, pp. 192–93, ill. p. 193 (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. 147 (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp : The Persian Book of Kings. Madrid, 2011. p. 167, ill. folio 243v (color).
Rüstem, Ünver. "The Afterlife of a Royal Gift: The Ottoman Inserts of the Shahnama-i Shahi." Muqarnas vol. 29 (2012). pp. 290–91, 308–9, ill. figs. 14, 15 (color).
Canby, Sheila R. The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp : The Persian Book of Kings. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. pp. 209, 326, ill. fol. 243v, full-page color ill. p. 209; detail p. 326.
Associate Curator Maryam Ekhtiar explores the depiction of blood in a painting on view in Divine Pleasures: Painting from India's Rajput Courts—The Kronos Collections and artworks from The Met collection.
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