No. 46     Portrait of the infant Rostam shown to Sam

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Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Timurid: Herat, c.1444
Patron: Mohammad Juki b. Shah Rokh

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

London, Royal Asiatic Society, Persian MS 239, fol. 30v


Zal fell in love with Rudabeh, daughter of king Mehrab of Kabol. Sam was opposed to a match at first, since Mehrab was a grandson of the tyrannical king Zahhak, but he relented when astrologers told him that a son born to the couple would be a mighty champion of Iran. Assisted by the Simorgh, who was summoned by the burning of one of her feathers, Rudabeh gave birth to a boy of prodigious size. They named him Rostam and his image was sent to Sam. In the Shahnameh, the image is a stuffed doll, but here the artist has interpreted it as a painting on silk. The messenger or courtier who presents the portrait to Sam has perhaps taken on some of the nervousness that the artist himself may have felt in laying his work before his patron. But Sam radiates satisfaction.

Together with Nos. 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54 and 55, this illustration belonged to a copy of the Shahnameh made for Mohammad Juki b. Shah Rokh, brother of Ebrahim Soltan (the patron of Nos. 33, 34, 35, 36, 38 and 39). Mohammad Juki died before the manuscript was completed. In the early sixteenth century, it came into the possession of a later Timurid ruler, Babur, who took it to India when he founded the Mughal dynasty there.


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