No. 55     Esfandiyar slays Arjasp in the Brazen Hold

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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. 278r

 

Esfandiyar, son of Goshtasp of Iran, went to the Brazen Hold to free his sisters who had been abducted by Arjasp of Turan. Disguised as a merchant, he entered Arjasp’s fortress, found his sisters, signalled to his army outside to attack the castle, and slayed Arjasp. This extraordinary bird’s eye view distances the main action, while the intricate web of architecture frames and holds it in focus. The tile cartouche above the door reads ‘Mohammad Juki bahador (warrior)’, the name of the patron of this manuscript.

Together with Nos. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53 and 54, 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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