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No. 66     The young Rostam kills the mad elephant


Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Safavid: Tabriz, Mashhad, c.1570

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

London, British Museum, 1975,0523.0.2


We see the young Rostam giving an early sign of his heroic future. His grandfather Sam is visiting and after the celebration Rostam goes to bed intoxicated. He is woken by shouts that a white elephant has run wild. Rostam overcomes the elephant with a blow from his grandfather’s mace and returns to bed. Rostam’s coat is kirtled into his belt in a way seen in Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnameh (No. 64), while the turban worn by the mahout of the elephant suggests knowledge of contemporary Mughal costume under the emperor Akbar (1556–1605).



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