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No. 47     Rostam slays the White Div


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. 44r


King Key Kavus was captured and blinded by divs in Mazandaran. Rostam set him free, but to cure his blindness he needed the White Div’s liver. The battle with the White Div in its lair — the cave shown in section here — was Rostam’s seventh and final Peril. Rostam’s enforced guide, Owlad, who is tied to a tree, looks exceedingly anxious. The hero, wearing his habitual tigers-skin coat, is removing the liver while the demon grasps his dismembered arm in anguish. The depiction of the div shows influence from China or Central Asia.

Together with Nos. 44, 45, 46, 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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