Gushtasp volunteered to go to the forest to slay a horned wolf as large as an elephant. The hero's steed was ripped apart by the monster's horn, and Gushtasp, on foot, dispatched the rhino-wolf with his sword. The prominent mountainous setting has a close parallel in the frontispiece of a poetic anthology compiled in Isfahan and in the painting style of southern Iran.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:"Gushtasp Slays the Rhino-Wolf", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)
Author:Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (Iranian, Paj ca. 940/41–1020 Tus)
Geography:Attributed to Iran, probably Isfahan
Medium:Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper
Dimensions:Painting: H. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) W. 4 5/16 in. (10.9 cm) Page: H. 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm) W. 5 5/16 in. (13.5 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974
Gushtasp Slays the Rhino-Wolf
This painting and MMA 1974.290.28 (cat. no. 119 in this volume) both belong to a small Shahnama manuscript differing in style from others of a similar diminutive size. These have strong coloring, as well as a suggestion of monumentality and dramatic force coupled with a highly developed decorative sense. At the same time there is a certain naiveté in the presentation. The artists on occasion are casual about adhering to the details of the epic poem.
According to the story, Gushtasp, the hero-prince, first attacked the monster with a shower of arrows, then fought on foot when the beast had slashed his mount from under him, and finally killed it with a sword, cutting off the two horns for booty.
While keeping the hero mounted, the artist has captured the spirit of the encounter. The rhino-wolf, with the single unicornlike horn in its outsized head lowered in a menacing fashion, is a fearsome target for the hero, who twists around in his saddle to deliver the sword thrust, while his horse carries him away at a flying gallop. The mountains behind the figures find their closest prototypes, in both pattern and shape, in Central Asian painting.
The large-scale plants between the mountains are by ths time traditional elements in Islamic painting, although the spiral design in the central flower also has close Central Asian affinities. The ibex heads protruding from a peak at either end are early manifestations of a long-lived tradition in Persian painting.
Mary Lukens Swietochowski in [Berlin 1981]
Gushtasp slays the Rhino-Wolf
In order not to put up with another disgraceful marriage, such as Caesar perceived Katayun's, he demanded that the next suitor for a royal princess perform a mighty feat—that is, he had to to go to the forest of Fasikun and slay a mighty horned wolf as large as an elephant. Gushtasp volunteered to face the wolf on behalf of the suitor. The enormous and ferocious creature charged the hero, who showered arrows at it, but it advanced and ripped open the belly of Gushtasp's steed. Gusthasp then dismounted and killed the beast with his sword.
In the miniature the encounter takes place against a gold ground in a mountain setting, and Gushtasp, still mounted and holding his bow, strikes out behind him with his sword. The gruesome demise of the steed has been omitted. Stylistically and iconograpically the Gutman illustration stands alone.
The First Small Shahnama miniature closely follows the epic text, with Gushtasp on foot, his sword raised, his horse dead, and the monster wolf charging. The composition in the Second Small Shahnama is close to that in the First, but is more graphic, as the "karg" is shown ripping apart the belly of the horse with its horn. The version in the Freer Shahnama, where the scene also appears, portrays Gushtasp mounted and in the mountains, but facing the beast.
Mary Lukens Swietochowski in [Swietochowski and Carboni 1994]
1. M. S. Simpson. The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts. New York, 1979, no. 60 (L. A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, Ms. 24); no. 59 illustrates the MMA leaf; both are entitled "Gushtasp Slays the Karg."
Ph. Walter Schulz, Leipzig, Germany (by 1914); Professor O. Moll, Düsseldorf, Germany ; Monroe C. Gutman, New York (by 1929–d. 1974; bequeathed to MMA)
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. 118.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Illustrated Poetry and Epic Images: Persian Painting of the 1330s and 1340s," February 1–May 1, 1994, no. 29.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," October 28, 2002–February 16, 2003, fig. 267.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," April 13–July 27, 2003, fig. 267.
Seville. Real Alcazar, Seville. "Ibn Khaldun. The Mediterranean in the 14th century: Rise and Fall of the Empires," May 11, 2006–September 30, 2006, p. 102.
Schulz, Ph. Walter. Die Persisch-Islamische Miniaturmalerei. Vol. vols. I, II. Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1914. vol. 1, pp. 74–75.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 118, pp. 280–81, ill. p. 281 (color).
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. 129–45.
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. 29, p. 106, ill. (color).
Bernus-Taylor, Marthe. "Musée du Louvre 23 Avril–23 Juillet 2001." In L'Etrange et le Merveilleux en Terres d'Islam. Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2001. no. 130, pp. 188–89, ill. p. 189 (color).
Rossabi, Morris, Charles Melville, James C. Y. Watt, Tomoko Masuya, Sheila Blair, Robert Hillenbrand, Linda Komaroff, Stefano Carboni, Sarah Bertelan, and John Hirx. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, edited by Stefano Carboni, and Linda Komaroff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. p. 219, ill. fig. 267 (b/w).
"Rise and Fall of Empires." In Ibn Khaldun: The Mediterranean in the 14th Century. Vol. vols. I & 2. Seville, SPain: Real Alcazar, Seville, 2006. vol. 2, pp. 102–3, ill. p. 103 (color).
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.
The Met's collection of Islamic art is one of the most comprehensive in the world and ranges in date from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Its more than 15,000 objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions from Spain to Indonesia.