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Rustam Slays Suhrab, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Iranian

Artwork Details

Rustam Slays Suhrab, from the Shahnama of Firdausi
circa 1460
Iranian
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper
10 7/16 in. x 7 in. ( 26.5 cm x 17.8 cm )
Museum Purchase
1963/1.47

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Suhrab, Rustam’s son by Tahmina, was raised by his mother’s family in Turan. He grew up ignorant of his father’s identity until his teens, by which time he had already become a great warrior. He resolved to attack Iran and depose the shah, replacing him on the throne with Rustam. He led an army against Kai Kaus and, mistakenly believing that his father was not on the field that day, agreed to have the outcome determined by one-on-one combat of champions. Rustam came forth in disguise and the two grappled for days, each challenged as never before. Suhrab suspected the truth but said nothing, until he fell to Rustam’s sword. Only when Suhrab was dying and revealed an heirloom jewel on a necklace did Rustam realize that he had killed his own son.
Rustam reaching clutched
That warrior-leopard [Suhrab] by the head and neck,
Bent down the body of the gallant youth,
Whose time was come and all whose strength was gone,
And like a lion dashed him to the ground;
Then, knowing that Suhrab would not stay under,
Drew lightly from his waist his trenchant sword
And gashed the bosom of his gallant son. …
Suhrab sank swooning till at length he cried:
“If thou indeed art Rustam thou hast slain me
In wanton malice, for I made advances,
But naught that I would do would stir thy love.
Undo my breastplate, view my body bare,
Behold thy jewel, see how sires treat sons!”
When Rustam loosed
The mail and saw the gem he rent his clothes,
And cried: “Oh! My brave son, approved by all
And slain by me!”
Warner, II, 172–74
To emphasize the emotional intensity of the father-son combat, the artist has rigorously eliminated other figures or distracting flora and fauna from the scene: we have only two men and their horses in a rocky landscape. The artist has chosen the moment after the battle, when Suhrab has revealed his identity and Rustam tears his clothes in anguish.
———
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:

Suhrab is Slain by Rustam

...Rustam reaching clutched 
That warrior-leopard by the head and neck, 
Bent down the body of the gallant youth, 
Whose time was come and all whose stregth was gone, 
Then, knowing that Suhrab would not stay under, 
Drew lightly from his waist his trenchant sword 
And gashed the bosom of his gallant son.

...Suhrab sank swooning till at length he cried: 
"If thou indeed art Rustam thou hast slain me 
In wanton malice, for I made advances, 
But naught that I could do would stir thy love.
Undo my breastplate, view my body bare, 
Behold thy jewel, see how sires treat sons!"

When Rustam loosed
The mail and saw the gem he rent his clothes, 
And cried: "Oh! My brave son, approved by all
And slain by me!"

Physical Description:

Timurid miniature from the Shiraz and Timurid schools, ca. 1460. The painting is done in ink, opaque watercolor and gold leaf on paper. The scene depicts Rustam Slays Suhrab from the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

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