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No. 78     The fire ordeal of Siyavosh


Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Safavid: probably Astarabad, 1620–1621

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 311, fol. 82r


As in No. 49, Siyavosh must pass through the fire in order to prove his innocence against his step-mother’s claim that he had violated her. With a gesture of prayer and a smile of beatific confidence, Siyavosh plunges into black smoke so dense that it obscures the heads of the watchers’ horses. In the crowd his father seems to anticipate a good outcome, but in the window above his step-mother, Sudabeh, watches with anxious guilt. The dynamic and colourful style of this manuscript has been associated with Astarabad (now Gorgan) in north-eastern Iran.



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