"Yazdegird I Kicked to Death by the Water Horse", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: ca. 1300–30

Geography: Attributed to Northwestern Iran or Baghdad

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm)
W. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm)
Page: H. 14 in. (35.6 cm)
W. 10 13/16 in. (27.5 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Cora Timken Burnett Collection of Persian Miniatures and Other Persian Art Objects, Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956

Accession Number: 57.51.33


The legendary death of the Sasanian king Yazdegerd I–who was said to have been kicked by a horse that magically emerged from a spring–is charmingly depicted in this leaf from a dispersed manuscript of the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi, one of a few codices of small dimensions. The attribution is uncertain either to Iraq or Iran in the Ilkhanid period. The decoratively curving tree and the grassy verge of the groundline, which rings the water, are traditional; the funguslike growths are derived from Chinese art and the costumes are Mongol. The gestures of the figures at the left register astonishment and dismay.