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Siyavush Passes Through the Fire, from the Shahnama of Firdausi

Iranian

Artwork Details

Siyavush Passes Through the Fire, from the Shahnama of Firdausi
circa 1460
Iranian
ink, opaque watercolor, and gold leaf on paper
10 7/16 in. x 7 3/16 in. ( 26.5 cm x 18.2 cm )
Museum Purchase
1963/1.48

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Like the previous scene (1963/1.47), this painting also deals with a tragic misunderstanding between father and son. The Shah Kai Kaus—a ruler often chastised by his own knights as a fool—had a son, Siyawush. One of the shah’s concubines attempted to seduce Siyawush and, when she failed, accused him of attacking her and causing a miscarriage of twins. Unable to determine who was telling the truth, Kai Kaus ordered Siyawush to undergo trial by fire.
… presently the tongues of fire rose fast;
The earth became more radiant than the sky,
The people shouted and the flames ascended.
All that were on the plain were scorched and wept
To see the cheery face of Siyawush,
Who came before his sire with golden helmet,
And raiment all of white.
“Be not discomfited,” said Siyawush,
“That fortune taketh such a turn as this.
I am dishonoured: such a state is ruin.
If I am innocent I shall escape. …”
From every side the flames closed o’er his head,
And none could see his helmet or his horse. …
The noble hero nathless reappeared,
With rosy cheeks and smiles upon his lips.
A roar went up as men caught sight of him:
They cried: “The young Shah cometh from the fire!”
Warner, II, 219–20
The stylized flames in this picture make it one of the most memorable in the manuscript. It is a pity that Siyawush’s face has been damaged.
———
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:

… presently the tongues of fire rose fast;
The earth became more radiant than the sky,
The people shouted and the flames ascended.
All that were on the plain were scorched and wept
To see the cheery face of Siyawush,
Who came before his sire with golden helmet,
And raiment all of white.
“Be not discomfited,” said Siyawush,
“That fortune taketh such a turn as this.
I am dishonoured: such a state is ruin.
If I am innocent I shall escape. …”
From every side the flames closed o’er his head,
And none could see his helmet or his horse. …
The noble hero nathless reappeared,
With rosy cheeks and smiles upon his lips.
A roar went up as men caught sight of him:
They cried: “The young Shah cometh from the fire!”

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 Passes Through the Fire, is part of the Shahnama of Firdausi, the Persian book of kings. 

Usage Rights:

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