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Kai Khusrau Crosses the Jihun, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Iranian

Artwork Details

Kai Khusrau Crosses the Jihun, from the Shahnama of Firdausi
circa 1460
Iranian
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper
10 1/2 in. x 7 1/16 in. ( 26.7 cm x 18 cm )
Museum Purchase
1963/1.50

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Afrasiyab, King of the Turanians, so favored young Siyawush that he gave him his daughter Farangis in marriage. However, Afrasiyab’s brother Garsiwaz, jealous of the young Iranian prince, persuaded the king that Siyawush was plotting against him. Afrasiyab had Siyawush killed and then imprisoned Farangis. After many misadventures, Farangis and her son Kai Khusrau were rescued by Giv, one of the great Iranian knights. On their flight to Iran, they came to the River Jihun at the border, their last obstacle.
When Giv and Kai Khusrau had reached the stream
In haste to cross they wrangled with the toll-man. …
Giv said to him: “Demand whate’er thou wilt,
But let us cross because a host approacheth.”
The officer, on hearing this from Giv,
Became extortionate …
Giv answered him: “O thou of broken wits!
Thou wouldst have toll: then take it in the river!
The stream for us, the ferryboat for thee:
‘Twill not be easy to collect thy fee!”
Giv told the prince: "If thou art Kai Khusrau
The stream will favour thee. …
If I, or if thy mother should be drowned,
Grieve not. For thee I lived because the throne
Of king of kings was naught. …
Then Kai Khusrau replied: “So be it. Enough.” …
He spake, and radiant as the morning star
Bestrode his sable steed, took to the water,
Reached like a boat the toll-house opposite,
And issued from the bed of the Jihun
With his gallant Giv and Farangis behind him.
Warner, II, 391–92
The painting shows the three companions in mid-stream, with Khusrau in the lead, followed by his mother Farangis and his loyal champion, Giv. From the shoreline, the ferryman watches them, amazed that they do not drown in their heavy mail. The rocky bank of the river rises to snow-capped mountains in the distance, and Chinese-inspired clouds swirl in the blue sky above.
———
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "A Medieval Masterpiece from Baghdad: the Ann Arbor Shahnama"
August 14 through December 19, 2004

Subject Matter:

When Giv and Kai Khusrau had reached the stream
In haste to cross they wrangled with the toll-man. …
Giv said to him: “Demand whate’er thou wilt,
But let us cross because a host approacheth.”
The officer, on hearing this from Giv,
Became extortionate …
Giv answered him: “O thou of broken wits!
Thou wouldst have toll: then take it in the river!
The stream for us, the ferryboat for thee:
‘Twill not be easy to collect thy fee!”
Giv told the prince: "If thou art Kai Khusrau
The stream will favour thee. …
If I, or if thy mother should be drowned,
Grieve not. For thee I lived because the throne
Of king of kings was naught. …
Then Kai Khusrau replied: “So be it. Enough.” …
He spake, and radiant as the morning star
Bestrode his sable steed, took to the water,
Reached like a boat the toll-house opposite,
And issued from the bed of the Jihun
With his gallant Giv and Farangis behind him.

Physical Description:

This Persian miniature is attributed to the Shiraz and Timurid schools, ca. 1460. The painting is done in ink, opaque watercolor and gold leaf on paper. The scene, Kai Khusrau Crosses the Jihun, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

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