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Isfandiyar slays Arjasp, the king of Turan, from a Shah-nama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi (Persian, about 934–1020)

December 31, 1599
Cleveland Art
Akbar 1556–1605

Isfandiyar slays Arjasp, the king of Turan, from a Shah-nama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi (Persian, about 934–1020)



Isfandiyar slays Arjasp, the king of Turan, from a Shah-nama (Book of Kings) of Firdausi (Persian, about 934–1020) 1600-1605 Haidar Kashmiri (Indian, active late 1500s-early 1600s) Mughal India Opaque watercolor, gold, and ink on paper, text on verso Page: 36.7 x 24.4 cm (14 7/16 x 9 5/8 in.) Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.314 DID YOU KNOW? Wine spilling from a porcelain bottle heightens the action of the moment. DESCRIPTION This illustrated scene occurs early in the narrative of Isfandiyar, who is destined to serve as king of Iran with Rustam as his champion. The episode describes Isfandiyar’s quest for vengeance against the tyrant Arjasp of Turan, who had defeated his father in battle and taken his sisters captive. Isfandiyar disguised himself as a merchant, entered Arjasp’s fort, and then fought his way to the enemy king, whom he defeated in battle. The artist has included beautiful and delicate details of the garden and architectural setting of this gruesome scene. An onlooker below puts his finger to his mouth in a gesture of astonishment. INSCRIPTION Persian inscription in left margin, in nasta‘liq script: 25 / Haidar Kashmiri; Persian title in nasta‘liq script: The Battle of Isfandiyar with Arjasp and The killing of Arjasp by the hand of Isfandiyar; Persian text in nasta‘liq script: He uttered these words, and hurried away from them Toward Arjasp’s court, bent on revenge He went forth, grasping a blade of Indian steel, Whomever of the notables his eyes fell on, was killed on the way So that in passing through the royal hall Hard it was to pick one’s way: So many wounded, battered, and dead Had turned the ground into a turbulent sea. When Arjasp awoke from his sleep His heart was troubled on hearing the din That he could not make out in the bedchamber. He put on his mail shirt and Roman-fashioned helmet Clutching in hand a burnished dagger, He shouted loud, blood coursing through his heart. The warrior Isfandiyar confronted him. They fought beyond measure and scale, Exchanging daggers and swords in a furious feud At times targeting the head, at times the waist, To him he (Isfandiyar) said, “Now from the tradesman Will you receive the gift of a blade, one glittering like a silver denarius. I have it as a gift for you, worthy enough to come from Luhrasp, inlaid with Gushtasp’s seal. He made Arjasp go limp and lifeless by the delivered cuts Nowhere on his body did he leave untouched. His mammoth body toppled over His head severed from the body by Isfandiyar. Such is the conduct of the revolving fortune: At times it offers us a honeyed potion, at others a deadly poison Why tie your heart to this transient place Since you know that you will not stay forever, do not grieve and pine. Having dealt with Arjasp, Isfandiyar Gutted the palace, its smoke reaching as far as Saturn He ordered torches lit Setting fire to the palace from all sides He entrusted his (Arjasp’s) women’s quarters to a eunuch, Taking all luster away from the place. He sealed off the treasury No one in Turan was now equal to his fight. He went to the stables and mounted A blade of Indian steel in his hand He selected among the Arab horses there And ordered them saddled A hundred and sixty men rode away from there Handpicked riders for the day of battle.; Verso: Text of Isfandiyar slays Arjasp, the king of Turan: Persian inscription in bottom margin, in nasta‘liq script: The army realized Persian text in nasta‘liq script: [cont. from recto] He furnished mounts, moreover, for his sisters, And marched forth from the court-gate of Arjasp, But left a few Iranians, men of name, With noble Sawa in the hold. “When we,” He said, “have gone outside the walls, I and my noble warriors, to the plain, Secure the gate against the Turkman troops, And may my good star aid me. When ye think That I have joined our noble troops outside, Then—let the watchmen from the lookout cry: ‘Blessed be the head and crown of Shah Gushtasp.’ And when the Turkman troops come toward the hold, In flight retreating from the battlefield, Then you shall throw the head of King Arjasp Before them from the tower of the watch.” The valiant hero rushed upon the plain, And slaughtered all the Turkmans that he found. As he approached the troops of Bishutan They saw and praised him in amazement that he, Who was so young, should show such bravery. When the moon had left her silver throne, And when three watches of the night had passed, The watchman shouted lustily, proclaiming: “Gushtasp, the Shah, has gained the victory, And may Isfandiyar be ever young. May heaven, moon, and fortune be his helpers, Who has in vengeance for Luhrasp beheaded Arjasp and, adding luster to our Grace And customs, cast him down from throne to dust, And made the name and fortune of Gushtasp Resplendent.” Hearing such a cry the Turkmans All listened while Kuhram grew dark of heart By reason of that watchman, was astonished, And spoke thus to Andariman: “How clear This cry is in the night! What do you say Can be the cause? Let us consult, for who Would dare to bawl thus by the monarch’s couch And after dark? What tricks might such a one Play in the day of battle, and thus bring Our nobles into straits! So send and have His head cut off, whoever he may be. If one of our own household is our foe, And he is backing up our enemies. “With evil words and evil presages, Then will we brain him with an evil mace.” Now when the cry went on persistently Kuhram was stricken to the heart with anger Against the watchman whose utterance, spread abroad In such a fashion, filled the nobles’ ears. The soldiers said: “The shouts increase, beyond A watchman’s! Let us drive the foemen forth And after take this host” Kuhram, who was straitened At heart about that watchman, writhed and frowned. He told the troops: “These men have filled my heart With dread about the king. We must return At once, past question. What may happen after I know not.” So that night they left the field, Where Isfandiyar, with ox-head mace And wearing mail, pursued them. When Kuhram had reached The portal of the hold, and saw the Iranians Pursuing, “What is left us,” he exclaimed: “But to fight with brave Isfandiyar? Unsheathe and send your message by the sword.” But fortune frowned and those famed chiefs fared ill. The two hosts raged and smote each other's heads Till morning came, and then the chiefs of Chin Had had their day. Ascending to the ramparts The warriors of Isfandiyar inside The hold flung down therefrom the severed head Of brave Arjasp—the king that had slain Luhrasp. The Turkmans fought no longer; from their host Arose a cry, and all the troops unhelmed. The two sons of Arjasp wept and were consumed As in a fierce fire, while all the army knew What they must weep for on that evil day. (closely adapted from Warner and Warner 1912, 152) EXHIBITION HISTORY The Cleveland Museum of Art (7/31/2016-10/23/2016); Art and Stories from Mughal India, cat. 34, p. 65. Art and Stories from Mughal India. The Cleveland Museum of Art (organizer) (July 31-October 23, 2016).

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