"Zal in the Simurgh's Nest", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings), Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020), Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper

"Zal in the Simurgh's Nest", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
ca. 1330–40
Attributed to Iran, probably Isfahan
Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper
Page: 8 x 5 1/8 in. (20.3 x 13 cm)
Painting: 3 3/16 x 2 3/16 in. (8.1 x 5.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974
Accession Number:
Not on view
Left in the wilderness as a baby because his father Sam thought his white hair was an attribute of the devil, Zal was rescued by the Simurgh and taken to her nest on Mt. Elburz. Rumors eventually reached Sam, who came to reclaim his son and to thank the great bird. In spite of the damage to the lower right hand portion of this stepped composition, the painting is striking, with the youth crouched in his mountain home talking to his foster mother while his repentant father bows to the ground in homage and gratitude to the Simurgh. The hares in the composition emphasize the remoteness of the setting. Here, the Simurgh has not yet taken the pictorial form of the Chinese phoenix as it had by this time in the more prominent artistic centers.
Ph. Walter Schulz, Leipzig, Germany (by 1914); Professor O. Moll, Düsseldorf, Germany ; Monroe C. Gutman, New York (by 1929–d. 1974; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images: Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s," February 1, 1994–May 1, 1994, no. 8.

Masuya, Tomoko. "The Condition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Small Shahnama and the Reconstruction of its Text." In Poetry and Epic Images, edited by Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Stefano Carboni. New York, 1994. pp. 129-145.

Swietochowski, Marie, Stefano Carboni, Tomoko Masuya, and Alexander H. Morton. Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images:Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. no. 8, pp. 82-83, ill. p. 83 (b/w).