Art

Double page: Rustam Mourns Sohrab and Carries His Coffin

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Double page: Rustam Mourns Sohrab and Carries His Coffin, 1575-1590
Series/Book Title: Shahnama by Firdawsi
Manuscript Folio
Persian
,
16th century
Safavid period, AH 907-1145 / AD 1501-1732
Creation Place: Shiraz, Iran
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
42.7 x 27.1 cm (16 13/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.32
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
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.
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, 1990 or 1992], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1990 or 1992-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Bibliography
Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., ed. Mary McWilliams Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 237, cat. 95A, 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
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