Illustration from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp I

Gushtasp Kills a Dragon in Rum.

The figures wear early 16th century Persian dress.


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This illustration shows Gushtasp, the son of Shah Luhrasp who travelled to the court of the Qaysar (Caesar) of Rum at Constantinople, killing a dragon. The eldest daughter of the Qaysar immediately fell in love with him and refused to marry any other man, to the great consternation of her father. To avoid the same misfortune befalling his two younger daughters, the Qaysar decreed that only suitors capable of accomplishing heroic feats would be accepted as suitable matches for his young daughters. Fearing failure, the aspirants of the young girls asked Gushtasp to join forces with them and be their secret champion. His second test, as illustrated here, was to kill the dragon of Mount Saqila. Armed with a special dagger, its tip coated with poison, Gushtasp first shot arrows at the dragon and whilst the latter tried to suck him into his mouth, Gushtasp lunged at him and planted his dagger in the back of his throat. He then decapitated the dying monster and returned to Constantinople, where the Qaysar, recognising his heroism, restored to him and his fiancée the favours of the court of Rum. The painting is attributable to Mirza 'Ali, son of Sultan Muhammad, who was one of the artists of the younger generation who worked on the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. The great skill exercised by Mirza 'Ali in describing nature is evident here in the interplay between the pale blue sky and golden hillside, which convincingly portrays a luminous and ethereal atmosphere.


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