The painting, showing Isfandiyar about to kill a dragon with bow and arrow in a conventional man-against-beast pose, depicts the last part of this episode in which the hero first weakens the animal with swords sticking out of a carriage he had built. It is a true fusion of influences: the mountain peaks and red background point to Injuid painting, while the composition and twisted body of the dragon owe much to Ilkhanid models.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:"Isfandiyar's Third Course: He Slays a Dragon", 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:Page: 8 1/8 x 5 1/4 in. (20.6 x 13.4 cm) Painting: H. 1 5/8 in. (4.2 cm) W.4 3/16 in. (10.6 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974
Isfandiyar's Third Course: He Slays the Dragon
When Isfandiyar learned of the horrendous attributes of the dragon he had to face he had a carriage built with swords sticking out all over it. When he encountered the dragon, it sucked in with its fiery, poisonous breath the box-like carriage with the hero inside and the two horses that were pulling it. The sword blades stuck in the dragon's gullet, and when the animal weakened from loss of blood, Isfandiyar dispatched it and swooned from its fumes.
In the miniature the graphic details of the epic have been ignored and Isfandiyar is shown in the mountains, mounted on a horse and shooting the writhing, menacing dragon with his bow and arrow.
This adventure is also illustrated in the Freer and First Small Shahnamas, but neither miniature is published. The scene is illustrated as well in the 1330 Inju'id Shahnama in Istanbul. There, against a yellow ocher ground, a Central Asian-type dragon is pictured with the rear end of one horse sticking out of its open mouth and the other horse still intact, but about to be inhaled, as Isfandiyar stands over it, his sword extended to the dragon's nose. The carriage with the attached swords is visible behind him. While the poem has not adhered to in the action sequence—a most challenging feat—all the elements appear. There is clearly no relationship between the two illustrations. Oddly enough, a published illustration from the 1330 manuscript that purports to be this scene shows the dragon on the left with the hero mounted on the right, as in the Gutman painting. The dragon, however, is different, with a larger Central Asian-type head, and the hero stylistically is a totally different figure type. Perhaps this second 1330 picture illustrates Gushtasp's dragon fight—in which case it differs from the Gutman image of this event (see no. 1974.290.23v)
Mary Lukens Swietochowski in [Swietochowski and Carboni 1994]
1. M. S. Simpson. The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts. New York, 1979, pp. 359 (Freer Gallery of Art, 85), 372 (Chester Beatty Library, MS. 104.36r).
2. F. Cagman and Z. Tanindi, The Topkapi Sarayi Museum. The Albums and Illustrated Manuscripts. Translated, edited, and expanded by J. M. Rogers, Boston, 1986, no. 35, colorpl.
3. M. S. Ipsiroglu, Das Bild im Islam. Vienna–Munich, 1971, no. 31 (Istanbul, Topkapi Sarayi, Hazine 1479, f. 144a). This is the same folio number given by Rogers but since the folio illustrated by Rogers follows, the scene can be presumed to be the story of Isfandiyar.
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 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. 32.
Schulz, Ph. Walter. Die Persisch-Islamische Miniaturmalerei. Vol. vols. I, II. Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1914. vol. 1, pp. 74–75.
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. 32, pp. 109–10, 129, ill. p. 109 (color), verso of 1974.290.25.
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.