Ilkhanid Illustration
Manuchihr learns about Zal and Rudaba
from the 1341 Inju Shahnama, Shiraz



MANUCHIHR TOLD OF THE ROMANCE BETWEEN ZAL AND RUDABA TITLE: FOLIO FROM A DISPERSED COPY OF FIRDAUSIíS SHAHNAMEH (BOOK OF KINGS) Accession Number: AKM29
Place: Iran, Shiraz
Dimensions: 37.1 x 29.9 cm
Date: 741 AH / 1341
Materials and Technique: Ink, coloured pigments and gold on paper
This enthronement scene AKM29 (folio 26 recto) falls in the middle of a rare tale from the Shahnameh, an epic poem completed by Firdausi in 1010. Firdausiís poem spans the reign of 50 monarchs, recounting the story of Iran from mythical times through to the arrival of the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century AD. The tale of youthful romance captured in this folio occurs during the reign of the legendary Iranian king Manuchihr. The two lovers are Zal, the brave and handsome scion of a noble clan from the region of Sistan in eastern Iran, and Rudaba, the beautiful daughter of Mihrab, king of the neighbouring tribute territory of Kabul and a descendant of the evil tyrant Zahhak who once held sway over Iran.

Further Reading
During a hunting expedition Zal and his companions rode from Sistan to Kabul, where they were warmly welcomed by Mihrab. One of the rulerís courtierís remarked that he had a daughter named Rudaba, who was ďlovelier than the sun,Ē and Zal immediately fell in love with the young womanís description. Upon returning to his palace, Mihrab described Zal as a fine gentleman and a mighty warrior, whereupon Rudaba was likewise immediately smitten.

One evening Rudaba sent a servant to guide Zal to her castle. She greeted her suitor by letting down her long dark hair, similar to Rapunzel in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, so that Zal could use it as a rope to scale the walls. After he climbed up to the rooftop, the two lovers passionately embraced.

The loversí fathers, as well as the Iranian king Manuchihr, vehemently opposed any match that would join a member of Iranís nobility to a descendant of the evil Zahhak. This parental and royal opposition led to protracted discussions and meetings, letters of entreaty, gift exchanges, tests of Zalís wisdom and physical prowess, and auguries cast by court astrologers, until the love-struck couple was finally permitted to wed.

Many volumes of the Shahnameh, including the one dated 1341 to which this folio belongs, illustrate the fateful moment when Zal and Rudaba first meet and fall madly in love. Few depict the moment captured here: when Manuchihr learns that Zal is engaged to marry Mihrabís daughter. The king is shown seated on his throne and holding an animal-headed mace (a symbol of legendary Iranian royalty). He turns to address his priests and nobles in attendance on every side. All agree that Zalís father Sam should be summoned to court for a consultation about how to end the ill-advised affair between Zal and Rudaba.

As in other enthronement scenes in the 1341 Shahnama, the picture plane for this composition is relatively small and stepped upwards in the centre, allowing Manuchihr to be seated higher than the flanking courtiers. Despite its compact size, the unknown artist of this painting managed to fit a total of ten figures, including a pair of attendants behind the throne, into the scene.

ó Marianna Shreve Simpson
Source: Aga Khan Museum AKM29



Geneva, Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Title of Work: Shahnama (1341)
Manuscript: 2005.1.28-37 (Ir.M. 6-6/I)
Accession Number: 2005.1.29 (Ir.M. 6/A)
Chapter 7 - Manuchihr (120 years)
Scene: Manuchihr learns about Zal and Rudaba
Dimensions (h x w): 98 x 172 mm
Format: Stepped within borders
Reconstructed Folio: 026r
Hijri Date: 741 Dhu'l-Qa'da 20
Gregorian Date: 1341 May 14
School: Shiraz
Public Notes: Opaque watercolour and ink on paper. From the dispersed Inju Shahnama of 1341. Page dimensions: 371 x 299, text: 285 x 241.
Source: Shahnama Project

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