Rustam Rescues Bijan From The Pit (Painting, Recto; Text, Verso), Folio From A Manuscript Of The Shahnama By Firdawsi
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.35
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Rustam Rescues Bijan from the Pit (painting, recto; text, verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
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
43.1 x 28 cm (16 15/16 x 11 in.)
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.
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
2002.50.35
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
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.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2013
97

Rustam Rescues Bizhan from the Pit
Recto: text and illustration
Verso: text, with title “Rustam attacks the palace of Afrasiyab at night”
Folio: 43.1 × 28 cm (16 15/16 × 11 in.)
2002.50.35

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.

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. 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

Verification Level

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