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No. 59     Eskandar seeks the Water of Life


Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Turkman Commercial style: Shiraz, 27 July 1494
Scribe: Soltan Hosayn b. Soltan ‘Ali b. Aslanshah al-katib

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Elliott 325, fol. 396v


Eskandar (Alexander the Great) was informed that in the Land of Darkness, where the sun sets, there was a spring of the Water of Life, which bestowed immortality. He took the prophet Khezr as his guide, giving him one of two rings that would light up when near water. Eskandar lost his companion in the darkness. Khezr found the water and bathed in it, while Eskandar passed on to a mountain where a talking tree foretold his doom. The artist has employed a pictorial variant that is more appropriate for the account given in the Khamseh of Nezami, where Khezr is accompanied by Elyas. Both figures have flaming halos indicative of their prophetic powers. The differing paths are clear in the composition: the two prophets focus their attention downwards to the Water of Life, while Eskandar proceeds with his eyes fixed on a distant horizon. 



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