Rustam Kills the White Div

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Rustam Kills the White Div, 1562
Former Title: Rustam's Seventh Course: He Slays the White Demon (painting, recto; text, verso), folio 66 from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Series/Book Title: Shahnama by Firdawsi
Manuscript Folio
16th century
Safavid period
Creation Place: Shiraz, Iran
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
37.1 x 23.8 cm (14 5/8 x 9 3/8 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.42
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
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The great hero Rustam had to perform a series of labors to free the king of Iran, Kay Kavus, who had been captured by the evil Ahriman. This illustration depicts Rustam’s seventh and last feat, in which he vanquished the fearsome demon known as the White Div. Advised by his captive guide, Awlad, to ambush the monster in his cave during the day (since demons prefer to sleep when the sun is hot), Rustam tied Awlad to a tree for safekeeping, drew his sword, and killed the lesser demons who were guarding the White Div’s lair. In the darkness of the
cave, the hero encountered the monstrous demon, and the two fought fiercely until Rustam managed to maim the creature and plunge a dagger into his chest, extracting his liver.
The painting focuses on Rustam’s moment of triumph. At the center, the hero, wearing his famous tiger-skin coat and leopard helmet, stabs his enemy. All around him lie the scattered body parts of the dead demons and the severed limbs of the White Div himself. Rustam, in contrast, appears unharmed, even though the text states that he was wounded. Around the cave are a number of surviving demons, as well as Awlad, tied to a tree. Rustam’s magnificent horse, Rakhsh, awaits his master at the left.
[Christies, London, 17 October 1995, lot no. 79]. [Mansour Gallery, London, before 1997], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1997-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
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. 93-94, ill.; pp. 226-227, cat. 79 A-B, ill.

Exhibition History
Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005
In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013
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