Shahnama Project : Shahnama

Firdausi

Shahnama Project

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>Provenance: according to the information on the fly leaf the manuscript was presented to the library by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson (Pasha) and Col. T.G. Gayer-Anderson on 19 January 1943.</p><p>The copy contains colophons at the end of each of the four sections (jild) into which the volume is divided: section 1 on f. 190r, section 2 on 332v, section 3 on 451r and 578r at the end. The date of its copying can be extracted only from the colophon on f.451r: 6 Rajab 1214/ 7 August 1799, with another date 915, which can be the date of the protograph used by the calligrapher in his work.</p><p>Both colophons (ff. 451r and 578r) also have name of the calligrapher and the place he worked: Rahim Bakhsh son of Muhammad Bakhsh son of Pir Muhammad hafiz-i Qur’an. The date of completion in the final colophon (f. 578r) is partly damaged: the month is clear, 6 rabi‘ al-awwal, but the year is illegible, and has been replaced in a later hand with the year 806 (?); it must presumably have been the year after part 3 was completed, so 6 Rabi` I, 1215 (= 27 July 1800). The place is Sialkot (modern Pakistan).</p><p>The calligraphy, paper and particularly the paintings witness the Indian origin of the copy. The handwriting is a moderate nasta‘liq, with characteristic Indian cursive elements of the end of the 18-19th cc. Text in Indian ink, headings are mostly missing, if they exist - they are in red, which is much faded.</p><p>Total folios is 578 ff., which appears to represent the full copy, however heavily interpolated and without any prose preface. Book is divided into 4 parts.</p><p>Ff.190v-191r and 451v-452r are left empty.</p><p>Incipit pretends to be normative (in the regular first misra only):</p><p>ba jan-i khudavand-u jan-u khirad</p><p>K-az in bar mi andisha bar naguzarad</p><p>Explicit:</p><p>Pasandida kardam yaqin-i pak-buy</p><p>Zi pay-u zi amr-u shudam mushk-buy</p><p>The paper is Oriental, thin, matt, creamy, of moderate quality. The binding is very simple, of light brown leather with lilac crepe paper glued over both exterior covers.</p><p>The manuscript is in good condition, restored, partly remargined.</p><p>The copy is decorated with 4 unwans (ff.1v, 191v, 333v, 452v). The 1st is of a very simple design of floral and geometric ornament. Green ate several significant holes. The bismallah inside it is crossed out! Three others are of better quality and condition with the bismallah left untouched.</p><p>There are 66 illustrations in Indian style. On the flyleaf there is an inscription by one of the owners with the notes about the number of paintings in every chapter: “book 1 - 17 paintings; book 2 - 17 paintings; book 3 - 13 paintings; book 4 - 17 paintings; Total: 64”, while actually there are 66 of them.</p><p>Two spaces are left blank, where the miniatures with the following subjects were supposed to be entered:</p><p>f.146v – Farud battles Giv and f. 147r – Bizhan battles Farud.</p><p>The size and shape of the paintings differ. Most of the miniatures are not big in size, of about one third of the page length, or even less (ff.54v, 345r, 393r), always within borders, rectangular, in most cases of stepped shape. However, 18 of them are quite large (ff.76r, 152v-311r, 553r), about a half of a page size or even bigger (ff.152v, 204r, 212r, 269r).</p><p>The average interval between miniatures is more or less constant: about 10 folios.</p><p>There were obviously at least two painters: one, with the distinct preferences for the court receptions indoors and outdoors and more or less small works; and another, whose palette was less bright pink-orange-blue and whose paintings are bigger.</p><p>The first artist preferred to depict most of the traditionally plain air and even battle or execution scenes as indoor receptions. For example, under the title “Bahram Gur comes back from India” (Baz gashtan-i Bahram az Hind), one could expect to see the royal army on their victorious march, while it is a regular court reception with the king seated on his throne with the group of courtiers and warriors kneeling before him.</p><p>The murder of Iraj (f.31r) is also happening in the courtyard in front of the palace gates, with all other usual details preserved like the golden stool, the tool of the murder, which here has the shape of a European chair, made of a neat golden wire with an embroided back. Salm is actively helping Tur, holding Iraj’s head in his hands, while Tur is striking his brother’s face with the chair; another courtier and warriors are curiously watching.</p><p>The execution of Siyavush (f.123v) is depicted in the very similar interior of the open courtyard. Afrasiyab, reclining on the big purple cushion, sits on his luxurious throne, which together with his dress and crown is richly decorated with pearls, rubies and emeralds. Siyavush is in a long orange dress, head shaved and black bearded, with his hands bound behind his back and a golden bowl before him. There are two soldiers, executing him. One is holding his sword over his head, although the other has already cut off Siyavush’s throat, which is bleeding heavily.</p><p>The painting depicting “Ardashir hangs Haftvad and his eldest son Shahuy” (f.393r), oddly combines the interior and exterior details: the main scene, displayed in the central right side, depicts Ardashir, reclining on the same purple cushion on the throne of the same design with blue back and pearl and ruby decoration, wearing the same dress and crown as all other kings in the book, surrounded by his courtiers. He points out with his finger two men, exhibited in a sort of a window, hung by their neck on the bar in the left part of the miniature.</p><p>Such an intimate scene, like the moment of Tahmina’s delivery to Rustam (f.54v) is shown as an open scene in the royal courtyard, nearby the garden pavilion.</p><p>However, the execution scenes are sacrificed in favour of simple receptions, as on f.62v, where instead of usual execution of Nouzar, there is the painting, called “Tus and Gustaham learn about the execution of Nauzar” (Agahi yaftan-i Tus-u Gustaham az kushta shudan-i Nauzar).</p><p>The painter uses a restricted number of clichés for his compositions, which seem to be deliberately constant. For example, 3 paintings in a row: ff. 13v, 20v and 37r are strikingly identical not only in their composition, number of figures, but in costumes of the personages, their colours and style, with some insignificant varying details.</p><p>However, the artist sometimes adds his own unique details in the paintings with the established iconography. Even the typical battle scenes and single combats have peculiar features, like a royal couple, where a lady is riding first, passing indifferently by Giv and Piran fighting (f.134r).</p><p>Exterior battle scenes of “classical” type tend to be symmetrical, as on f.289r – “Kay Khusrau battles Karun”, or f. 152v - Fariburz battles Piran, f.311r – “Gushtasp’s battle”, or f.212r – “Tus battles Fariburz” with the characteristic hill in the centre of the horizon, dividing the composition into two parts. This tendency can be traced even in non-battle exterior scenes, as on f.204r – “Rustam pulling Bizhan out of the well”, with the same blue hill in the centre of the foreground, supported by two pink hills and two groups of people, symmetrically displayed in the first plane.</p><p>Demonic creatures are not popular in the manuscript, there are only two miniatures, where the divs appear. It is on f.188v – “Div Akvan flings Rustam into the sea” and f.4r – “Siyamak battles the divs”. The “div scene number one”, having the first place in the list of Norgren-Davis-Mehran – “Rustam, killing the White div” is absent in the manuscript. However, divs fighting with Siyamak and Akvan have their traditional demonic appearance: long tails, anthropomorphic bodies and an animal-like head with horns, as well as their usual costumes: short skirts, opening in front, and a lot of jewellery: bracelets, necklaces decorated with pearls and stones.</p><p>The manuscript contains a few paintings from the Barzunama, still awaiting a separate study.</p><p>Towards the end of the volume, in particular, the relatively close relation between text and image dissolves and several pictures bear no relation to the subject.</p><p>Catalogued by A.J. Arberry, Second supplementary handlist, p. 28, without referring to the fact it is illustrated.</p></p>


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