Luxury Design, Past & Present
A scene from the Shahnameh
Imperial Mughal, India
Circa 1600, Akbar Period
Gouache and gold on paper
Folio: 19 x 14 inches, Image: 12 1/4 x 9 inches
Provenance: Royal Ontario Museum
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.