Rustam's half-brother Shaghad dug a pit, filled it with sharp spikes, and covered it to trap the hero. Observing from behind a tree and exulting when Rustam and his horse fall into the pit and are impaled, Shaghad is killed by the dying hero's last arrow, which is shot with such strength that it pierces the tree. The scene is illustrated in an effective manner, with only Shaghad's head protruding from behind the tree. The mushroomlike rock on the left is a motif from Chinese painting that entered the Ilkhanid repertoire.
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:"Rustam Avenges his Own Impending Death", 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: H. 8 in. (20.3 cm) W. 5 1/4 in. (13.3 cm) Painting: H. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm) W. 4 5/16 in. (10.9 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974
Rustam Dies and Rustam Avenges His Own Impending Death (1974.290.30 and .31)
Rustam was lured, with his brother Zavara, to the hunting fields of Kabul by its king and his treacherous half-brother, Shaghad, who had arranged for the deaths of the brothers by creating pits lined with spears and covered with brush over the course they were sure to ride. Rustam and Rakhsh, his faithful steed, fell into the pit and were impaled. Mortally wounded, Rustam raised himself to look out of the pit, saw Shaghad and knew him to be the culprit. Rustam asked Shaghad to string his bow and hand him an arrow so that he might ward off marauding animals until he died. Shahgad complied and, exulting, hid behind a tree. In spite of his pain and his wounds Rustam shot an arrow through the rotten trunk and into his murderer, killing him and thus avenging his own death. Zavara died in another pit. Usually the moment of Rustam's revenge is the scene chosen by illustrators.
These two miniatures (1974.290.30 and .31), on opposite sites of the same leaf, are close in composition and, as they are part of one episode, may be described together. Each has a red ground. The first has a slightly stepped format. In both pictures the pit--large and centered in the first, smaller and at the right in the second--is shown as a mound with a hole at the top through which Rustam emerges and with a section at the front sliced off to reveal his steed in its depths. This is already a characteristic device. In both paintings the spreading foliage of the sturdy tree suggests the existence of a benevolent nature in an otherwise starkly brutal scene. The lava-like rock at the left of the second miniature is derived from Chinese prototypes.
This unhappy event is illustrated in the First and Second Small Shahnamas but neither miniature has been published. It is also found in the 1330 Inju'id Shahnama in Istanbul and among the illustrations from the 1341 dispersed Inju'id Shahnama, but these miniatures, too, are unpublished.
Mary Lukens Swietochowsky in [Swietochowsky and Carboni 1994]
1. M. S. Simpson. The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts. New York, 1979, pp. 373 (Chester Beatty Library, Ms. 104.43), 379 (Louvre, MAO 344r).
2. J. Norgren and E. Davis, Preliminary Index of Shah-Nameh Illustrations, Ann Arbor, 1969, n.p. (listed as "Rustam Slays Shaghad then Dies"; Istanbul, Topkapi Sarayi, Hazine 1479, and The Art Institute of Chicago, 34.117).
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. 37.
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. 37, pp. 114–15, ill. pl. 37 (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.