Fol. 158v: The Div Akvan carries Rustam to the Sea On a quest to find a div (demon) that had been killing the shah’s herds, Rustam grew tired and went to sleep in a meadow. The div, Akvan, spied him and lifted him with the mound of earth on which he lay. As Rustam trembled with fear, Akvan said: "Tell me where you want me to leave you. Shall I throw you into the sea or onto the mountains?" Rustam chose the mountains, knowing that the div would do the opposite. The orange div with its flaming gold eyelids and strangely shaped horns is typical within the work of Mu‘in Musavvir, who illustrated a number of Shahnama manuscripts in the second half of the seventeenth century.
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Folio 386 (last text page)
Folio 386 (last text page)
The murder of Siyavush.
Isfandiyar's first course: he slays two monster wolves.
Isfandiyar's second course: he slays the lions.
Tus unhorsed by the warrior Div Puladvand.
Piran interceding with Afrasiyab on Bizhan's behalf.
Rustam carried by the Div Akvan about to be thrown into the sea.
Kay Khosrow slays Afrasiyab in the name of Siyavush.
Battle between the forces of Kay Khosrow and Afrasiyab in which Fariburz slays Fartus.
The capture of Shah Nowzar by the forces of Afrasiyab.
The execution of Zuran and the Jew by the order of Kisra (Nushirvan) for their plot against the Vizier Mahbud.
Buzurjmihr before Kisra (Nushirvan) revealing the contents of the locked casket sent by the Caeser of Rum.
Shirin about to destroy herself after the muder of Khosrow.
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Title:Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi
Artist:Painting by Mu'in Musavvir (Iranian, active 1630s–90s)
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 (folio 158v): H. 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm) W. 5 5/8 in. (14.3 cm) Text block: H. 14 5/16 in. (36.4 cm) W. 8 9/16 in. (21.7 cm) Binding: H. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm) W. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm) D. 2 in. (5.1 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Monroe C. Gutman, 1974
Folio from a Shahnama: "The Div Akvan Throws Rustam into the Sea" (fol. 158v)
Illustrated here is the story of the div Akvan, who discovered Rustam sleeping in a meadow. Having dug out the plot of earth upon which Rustam was resting, the div (demon) raised the hero and his "bed," shown here as a boulder, high in the sky. Akvan then gave him the choice of being tossed into the sea or dashed against the mountains. Understanding the div’s psychology, Rustam chose the mountains. Predictably Akvan threw him into the sea and he survived.
Of the artists working in Iran from the 1630s to the 1690s, Mu‘in Musavvir was one of the most prolific. In addition to single-page drawings and paintings of a wide variety of subjects, he illustrated at least six Shahnama manuscripts during that period as well as several versions of the Tarikh-i jahangusha-yi khaqan sahibqiran (History of the World-Conquering Lord of the Fortunate Conjunction). Mu‘in’s distinctive style, which shows little of the European and Indian influences so popular at the Safavid court from the 1640s onward, featured painterly brushwork and a fondness for a particular shade of violet pink, evident here in the background. As has been noted elsewhere, the artist worked for nonroyal patrons, who were presumably more conservative in their taste than Shahs Safi (r. 1629–42) and ‘Abbas II (r. 1642–66), and at certain times lived outside the capital, Isfahan.
In this illustration Mu‘in focuses on the essential elements of the story. Rustam, wearing his trademark tiger-skin cuirass and leopard-skin helmet, reclines on a boulder and gazes at the sea, now blackened, below him. The bright orange Akvan, a giant compared to Rustam, lifts the rock like a bodybuilder, his two-tiered blue and crimson skirt revealing a demon-sized male member between his calloused knees. In the 1650s and 1660s Mu‘in Musavvir depicted this episode three times. While no reproduction of the scene from the undated manuscript in the National Library of Russia is available, the dispersed illustration from the 1650 David Collection Shahnama provides a close comparison. That painting differs from ours only in small details, such as the position of Rustam’s arms and legs, the placement of his ox-headed mace, the length of the div’s skirt, the treatment of his gold belt, and the vegetation along the shoreline. Presumably Mu‘in considered his earlier formula to have worked and saw no reason to change it. Only much later, in 1693, did he return to the subject and alter the composition.
Sheila R. Canby in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Farhad, Massumeh in Canby 1990, pp. 126–27 n. 10. Farhad listed the manuscript from which this painting comes as dispersed and dated it to A.H. 1077/1666–67 A.D.; the source of her date is unclear. Three dispersed pages from the Metropolitan’s manuscript were published in Grube 1962, nos. 114–16. The Museum’s registration documents for this manuscript state that it contains twelve illustrations but originally had twenty-one. Grube mentioned a total of nine pages in the Olsen Collection (of which he published three), one page in the Springfield Museum in Massachusetts, and three in the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection at the San Diego Museum of Art, which means a total of twenty-five illustrations, not twenty-one. The margins of the Metropolitan’s manuscript were cut down when it was rebound.
2. Sims, Eleanor in Sheila R. Canby, Safavid Art and Architecture, London, 2002, p. 54.
3. Farhad, Massumeh in Canby 1990, p. 114; Canby, Sheila R. "An Illustrated Shahnameh of 1650: Isfahan in the Service of Yazd." The Journal of the David Collection 3 (2010), pp. 54–113, esp. p. 55.
4. This version occurs in a Shahnama copied in 1669, but illustrated in 1693 (Metropolitan Museum, no. 13.228.17).
Kai Khusrau Slays Afrasiyab in the Name of Siyavush (fol. 176v)
The painter Mu'in had an extraordinary long working life, from about 1638 to 1697. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of his work—from single-figure drawings to manuscript illustrations—is staggering. Initially Mu'in's style was very close to that of his brilliant master, Reza-ye 'Abbasi, the salient characteristics of whose work he could imitate with great virtuosity, but he soon developed a broad and fluid style unmistakingly his own. He illustrated various Shahnama manuscripts, including one in the Metropolitan Museum's collection, to which he contributed twenty-one miniatures during the 1690s, toward the end of his career. Naturally the paintings and drawings of such a well-known artist as Mu'in Musavvir have been extensively studied by scholars, but the present manuscript, which came into the Museum's collection in 1974, was until that time quite unknown. The manuscript is defective; large portions,which must surely have included a number of miniatures, are missing, and those that survive were placed out of order in the course of a rebinding. However, of the twelve miniatures remaining in the volume, seven have been signed by Mu'in Musavvir, and one other bears his name but appears a later attribution. The other four may on stylistic grounds be attributed to Mu'in, and all appear to have been painted during the same period. Their stylistic relationship to other work of Mu'in would seem to place them roughly in the middle of the seventeenth century, although his style, once developed, was so unchanging that the dates here must remain tentative.
In this miniature, the figure of the beheaded king of the Turanians effectively serves as the central focus of the painting, with his richly patterned, deep mulberry-colored robe silhouetted against the mauve ground. The landscape reinforces the prominence of the victim in the way the horizon dips deeply above his body, revealing an agitated sky, an influence from European painting. The avenger king, Kay Khosrow, is given the idealized countenance of a beautiful youth, while Rustam in his tiger-skin coat appears suitably grave and thoughtful.
Marie Lukens Swietochowski in [Berlin 1981]
Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta‘liq script:
رقم كمينه معين مصور غفر عنهم
Work of the humble Mu‘in Musavvir, forgive his sins
(From "Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2011, p. 228).
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. 83.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "In the Fields of Empty Days: The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art," May 6, 2018–September 9, 2018, no. 6.
Schulz, Ph. Walter. Die Persisch-Islamische Miniaturmalerei. Vol. vols. I, II. Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1914. vol. 1, pp. 74–75.
Grube, Ernst J. "from Collections in the United States and Canada." In Muslim Miniature Paintings from the XIII to XIX Century. Venice: N. Pozza, 1962. nos. 114–16.
Stchoukine, Ivan. Les Peintures des Manuscrits de Shah Abbas Ier à la Fin des Safavis. Bibliotheque Archeologique et Historique, Vol. tome LXXVI. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1964. pp. 62–72, passim; discussed p. 70.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 83, pp. 204–5, ill. p. 205 (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R., ed. "Five Centuries of Painting." In Persian Masters. Bombay: Marg Publications, 1990. pp. 114, 126–27, n. 10.
Komaroff Linda, ed. "The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art." In In the Fields of Empty Days. Los Angeles, CA, 2018. no. 6, pp. 13, 76, 106, ill. pl. 6 (color).
Canby, Sheila R., ed. Safavid Art and Architecture. London, 2002.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 154, pp. 228–29, ill. p. 228 (color).
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