Double Page: Rustam Mourns Sohrab And Carries His Coffin
recto © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.131
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Double page: Rustam Mourns Sohrab and Carries His Coffin
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Shahnama by Firdawsi
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
1575-1590
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
42.7 x 27.1 cm (16 13/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, before 1990 or 1992], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1990 or 1992-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.131
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
This painting is part of a double-page composition that represents two final moments in the tragic tale of Rustam, the great Iranian hero, and his son, Sohrab. Rustam had departed the kingdom of his bride, Tahmina, before Sohrab’s birth. He was unaware of his son’s existence until they met, years later, on the battlefield, where Sohrab was leading the Turanian army against the Iranians. Not recognizing each other, the two champions fought in fierce single combat on three successive days. Only after Rustam managed to wrestle Sohrab to the ground and fatally stab him was the identity of the mighty young warrior revealed to his distraught father.
The painting on the right depicts Rustam kneeling next to his dying son, who lies mortally wounded. Sohrab’s coat has been partially pulled off to reveal on his arm the amulet that Rustam gave Tahmina the night Sohrab was conceived. Warriors of the two armies, looking on in shock, encircle the two heroes. The painting on the left shows Rustam singlehandedly carrying the coffin of his son. The mourners around him raise their arms in the air, beat their chests, and undo their turbans in grief.
The double-page composition is surrounded by lavish gold-and-blue illuminated borders consisting of curvilinear trefoils and floral tracery.

Label Text: Re-View: S231 (Islamic rotation: 5) Heroic Gestes: Epic Tales from Firdawsi's Shahnama, written 2010
Rustam Mourns the Dying Suhrab
Rustam Carries Suhrab’s Casket
Bifolio from a manuscript of the Shahnama
by Firdawsi
Iran, Shiraz, 1570s
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, 2002.50.32, 2002.50.131

This boldly illuminated double folio illustrates the tragic conflict between Rustam and his son, Suhrab. The tale begins when Rustam fathers a son with Tahmina, princess of Samangan, but leaves her to raise the child alone. When young Suhrab learns who his father is, he leaves home and naively allies himself with the Turanians, hoping he will encounter Rustam, Iran’s greatest champion. Eventually, father and son are unknowingly pitted against each other in single combat, and, in a cruel twist of fate, Rustam mortally wounds Suhrab. On the right, Rustam rends his garment as the dying Suhrab reveals the armband by which his father could have recognized him. In the text, Rustam is alone with Suhrab, but the artist has raised the emotional pitch by adding gesturing onlookers. On the left, Rustam bears Suhrab’s casket in a funeral procession. Rustam then retires to his home province, until he is called again to serve Iran.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2013
95 A–B

Double page: Rustam Mourns Sohrab and Carries His Coffin
A. Verso: text and illustration (of Rustam mourning Sohrab)
Folio: 42.7 × 27.1 cm (16 13/16 × 10 11/16 in.)
2002.50.32
B. Recto: text and illustration (of Rustam carrying Sohrab’s coffin)
Folio: 42.7 × 27.1 cm (16 13/16 × 10 11/16 in.)
2002.50.131

The paintings of this double page represent two final moments in the tragic tale of Rustam, the great Iranian hero, and his son, Sohrab. Rustam had departed the kingdom of his bride, Tahmina, before Sohrab’s birth. He was unaware of his son’s existence until they met, years later, on the battlefield, where Sohrab was leading the Turanian army against the Iranians. Not recognizing each other, the two champions fought in fierce single combat on three successive days. Only after Rustam managed to wrestle Sohrab to the ground and fatally stab him was the identity of the mighty young warrior revealed to his distraught father.

The painting on the right depicts Rustam kneeling next to his dying son, who lies mortally wounded. Sohrab’s coat has been partially pulled off to reveal on his arm the amulet that Rustam gave Tahmina the night Sohrab was conceived. Warriors of the two armies, looking on in shock, encircle the two heroes. The painting on the left shows Rustam singlehandedly carrying the coffin of his son. The mourners around him raise their arms in the air, beat their chests, and undo their turbans in grief.

The double-page composition is surrounded by lavish gold-and-blue illuminated borders consisting of curvilinear trefoils and floral tracery.

Mika M. Natif

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 96-99, ill.; p. 237, cat. 95B, ill.

Exhibition History

Re-View: S231 (Islamic rotation: 5) Heroic Gestes: Epic Tales from Firdawsi's Shahnama, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/18/2010 - 11/27/2010

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

Related Works
Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted