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Siyavush Displays His Prowess before Afrasiyab, from the Shahnama of Firdausi (The “Kervorkian Shahnama”)

Iranian

Artwork Details

Siyavush Displays His Prowess before Afrasiyab, from the Shahnama of Firdausi (The “Kervorkian Shahnama”)
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
1963/1.49

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Siyawush emerged from his trial by fire (seen in the previous image, 1963/1.48) physically unscathed, but acutely aware of his father Kai Kaus’s irrational behavior. When commanded to lead a war against Afrasiyab, the king of neighboring Turan, Siyawush refused and took refuge in Afrasiyab’s court. Here, Siyawush, wearing an orange tunic and mounted on a white horse, demonstrates his skill at polo, while the crowned and bearded Afrasiyab, seen just over the crest of the hill, looks on in wonderment. The Persian love for horses is clear from the way the artist has depicted these steeds in a spirited “flying gallop.”
One night the king spake thus to Siyawush:
“Tomorrow morning let us play at polo;
I hear that none among the warriors
Can face thy mall on thine own ground.
Let us be opposites,
Select our partners, and make up our sides.” …
Then Siyawush urged on his steed and smote
The ball, or ever it could reach the ground,
So stoutly that it disappeared from sight.
He mounted a fresh steed, threw up the ball,
And drove it out of sight to see the moon.
Thou wouldst have said: “The sky attracted it.”
There was not on the ground his peer, and none,
Had such a beaming face. The monarch laughed …
“Siyawush hath bettered all report.”
Warner, II, 263–65
———
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:

Siyavush Displays His Prowess Before Afrasiyab

One night the king spake thus to Siyavush:--
"Tomorrow morning let us play at polo;
I hear that none among the warriors 
Can face thy mall on thine own ground.

Let us be opposites,
Select our partners, and make up our sides."

Then Siyavush urged on his steed and smote
The ball, or ever it could reach the ground, 
So stoutly that it disappeared from sight. 

He mounted a fresh steed, threw up the ball,
And drove it out of sight to see the moon.
Thou wouldst have said: "The sky attracted it."
There was not on the ground his peer, and none, 
Had such a beaming face. The monarch laughed...:--

"...Siyavush hath bettered all report."

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, Siyavush Displays His Prowess before Afrasiyab, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

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