Folio from a Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi (d. 1020); recto: Kay Ka’us chained in a grotto by the white demon; verso: text, Ka’us sends a letter to Rustam the son of Zal and asks for help

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black nasta’liq script; recto: illustration and text: Kay Ka’us chained in a grotto by the white demon, 4 columns, 6 lines of text, marginal writings; verso: text: Ka’us sends a letter to Rustam the son of Zal and asks for help, 4 columns, 22 lines of text.
Border: The recto is set in gold, black, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper; the verso is set in gold, red, green, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper.

Maker(s)
Artist: Ascribed to Siyavush
Historical period(s)
Safavid period, 1576-1577
Medium
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W (sheet): 45.6 x 31.5 cm (17 15/16 x 12 3/8 in)
Geography
Iran, Qazvin
Credit Line
Purchase -- Charles Lang Freer Endowment in appreciation of Mary Wilkie Ebrahimi and her exemplary service to the Galleries as vice chair of the Board of Trustees (2003-2007)
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F2006.7
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Manuscript
Type

Manuscript folio

Keywords
demon, Iran, Kay Kavus, prisoner, Rustam, Safavid period (1501 - 1722), Shahnama, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Description

Detached folio from a dispersed copy of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi; text: Persian in black nasta’liq script; recto: illustration and text: Kay Ka'us chained in a grotto by the white demon, 4 columns, 6 lines of text, marginal writings; verso: text: Ka'us sends a letter to Rustam the son of Zal and asks for help, 4 columns, 22 lines of text.
Border: The recto is set in gold, black, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper; the verso is set in gold, red, green, and blue rulings on cream-colored paper.

Label

While the Shahnama is rich in history and legend, it is especially so in its descriptions of Iran’s legendary villains. This boldly composed folio illustrates the arrogant and now blind king Kay-Kavus, who was enchained by white divs (demons) after reckless pride led him into a hopeless and unnecessary military campaign. Surprisingly, this dramatic episode—which juxtaposes good and evil forces and human and supernatural powers—was rarely depicted, and this illustration is the earliest of only three known examples.

The painting belongs to an incomplete copy of the Shahnama, prepared between 1576 and 1577 for Shah Tahmasb’s son and successor, Shah Ismail. It has been ascribed to the celebrated painter Siyavush, whose skill is evident in his characterization of the protagonists. His depiction of the blinded and remorseful Kay-Kavus stands in sharp contrast to that of the gleeful white demon, perched comfortably on the rock outside the grotto. Even the expressions of the snarling bear and the growling leopard are carefully rendered and further enhance the composition’s menacing air.

Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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