Skip to main content

Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Iranian

Artwork Details

Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies, from the Shahnama of Firdausi
circa 1460
Iranian
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper
10 1/2 in. x 7 in. ( 26.7 cm x 17.8 cm )
Museum Purchase
1963/1.63

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

When Rustam’s half-brother Shaghad was born, it was foretold that he would destroy the entire clan. To avoid that tragedy, he was sent as a child to Kabul. Shaghad thrived there, rising to become the king’s son-in-law and chief advisor. Kabul had paid an annual tribute fee to Rustam, but the king grew to resent his vassal status. Shaghad and the king “plotted till they soared above the moon in their imaginations.” They invited Rustam to a feast and then to hunt, on grounds that they had prepared with pits lined with “hunting spears, swords, darts, and scimitars.” Rustam set out eagerly to the hunt, when suddenly his horse Rakhsh shied.
Rakhsh sniffed fresh earth, spun like a ball, and shied,
Suspicious of the smell, and tore the ground. . .
Two of his feet went through;
He had no purchase; all below was spear
And sword; no pluck availed; escape was none;
And so the haunches of the mighty Rakhsh,
And Rustam’s legs and bosom, were impaled;
Yet in his manhood he [Rustam] uplifted him,
And from the bottom bravely gained the brim.
When Rustam wounded as he was looked forth,
And saw the hostile visage of Shaghad,
He recognised the author of the plot,
[Rustam then asked Shaghad to string his bow, so that he could protect himself from wild beasts as he lay dying.]
Shaghad drew near, uncased the bow, and strung it.
He drew it once, then laid it down by Rustam,
And laughed exulting at his brother’s death.
The matchless hero clutched it lustily,
Though tortured by the anguish of his wounds,
What while Shaghad in terror at those arrows
Made haste to shield himself behind a tree . . .
When Rustam saw this he put forth his hands,
Sore wounded as he was, and loosed a shaft.
He pinned his brother and the tree together . . .
Warner, V, 270–72
With the ignominious death of the great and noble Rustam, so too ends the “Age of Heroes” in the Shahnama.
———
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:

Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies

Rakhsh sniffed fresh earth, spun like a ball, and shied, 
Suspicious of the smell, and tore the ground...

Two of his feet went through;
He had no purchase; all below was spear 
And sword; no pluck availed; escape was none;
And so the haunches of the mighty Rakhsh, 
Yet in his manhood he uplifted him, 
And from the bottom bravely gained the brim.

Shaghad drew near, uncased the bow, and strung it.
He drew it once, then laid it down by Rustam,
And laughed exulting at his brother's death.
The matchless hero clutched it lustily, 
Though tortured by the anguish of his wounds, 
What while Shaghad in terror at those arrows
Made haste to shield himself behind a tree...

When Rustam saw this he put forth his hands, 
Sore wounded as he was, and loosed a shaft.
He pinned his brother and the tree together...
 

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, Rustam Slays Shaghad and Dies, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit https://umma.umich.edu/request-image/ for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.