Art

Rustam Rescues Bijan from the Pit (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi

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Rustam Rescues Bijan from the Pit (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi, 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
43.1 x 28 cm (16 15/16 x 11 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.35
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
Description
This painting represents the conclusion of a tale of forbidden love between the Iranian warrior Bizhan and the princess Manizha, daughter of the Turanian king Afrasiyab. Crossing the border to see the fair maidens of Turan encamped at a spring festival, Bizhan encountered Manizha, and the two were so powerfully attracted to each other that they trysted in her tent for three days. When Afrasiyab learned of the affair, he arrested Bizhan and imprisoned him in a dark pit covered by a heavy stone, with only the dishonored Manizha to keep him alive.
Eventually, Bizhan was saved by the Iranian hero Rustam, who was the only one strong enough to remove the stone from the mouth of the pit.
The painting shows the moment of rescue. Rustam, dressed in his tiger-skin coat, has cast away the stone and with a rope pulls the chained, half-naked Bizhan up from the depths. On the left stands Manizha, in white robe and veil. Encircling the main scene, a crowd of admiring soldiers witnesses the rescue mission.
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), pp. 114-115, ill.; pp. 117-118, ill.; pp. 123-125, ill.; pp. 238-239, cat. 97, ill.

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