No. 16 Bowl showing Bahram Gur hunting with Azadeh
Probably Kashan, late 12th or early 13th century
Fritware with colours painted in and over the glaze, mina’i
The young prince Bahram Gur is shown hunting with Azadeh, the slave girl who was a fine musician and ‘his heart’s delight and desire.’ Azadeh challenged him to demonstrate his skill as a hunter and, firing successive shots from his bow, to turn a male gazelle into a female, a female one into a male, and then to pin together the foot and ear of a third one. Bahram shot two arrows into the female deer’s head and cut off the antlers of the male deer with a double-pointed arrow. He nicked the ear of a third gazelle and when she raised her foot to scratch it, he pinned foot and ear together, as can be seen here. Azadeh attributed his success to demonic powers, an accusation that questioned the prince’s skill, prowess, and farr — the royal charisma demonstrated by a successful hunt and indispensible for a legitimate Persian ruler. The angry Bahram Gur threw her from the camel and trampled her. The bowl shows two successive episodes, with Azadeh on and off the camel. The union of a prince and a slave girl was, according to the social outlook of the Shahnameh, as absurd as Azadeh’s name, meaning ‘free’ or ‘noble’.