Rustam Kills The White Div
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.42
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Rustam Kills the White Div
Other Titles
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
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
1562
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
37.1 x 23.8 cm (14 5/8 x 9 3/8 in.)
Provenance
[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.
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
2002.50.42
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
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.

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

Double page: Rustam Kills the White Div
A. Verso: text, concerning Rustam’s fifth and sixth trials
Folio: 37.2 × 23.8 cm (14 5/8 × 9 3/8 in.)
2002.50.134
B. Recto: text and illustration
Folio: 37.1 × 23.8 cm (14 5/8 × 9 3/8 in.)
2002.50.42

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.[1] 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.

Mika M. Natif

[1] For further discussion of this painting, see, in this volume, Marianna Shreve Simpson’s essay, “The Illustrated Shāhnāma in Sixteenth-Century Shiraz,” 77–113.

Label Text: Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2004
Rustam's Seventh Course: He Slays the White Demon
Folio from a manuscript of the Shāhnāma by Firdawsi Iran, Shiraz, 1561-62
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
2002.50.42 recto [first proof]

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., 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

Related Works
Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted