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Rustam mortally wounds Suhrab

Rustam mortally wounds Suhrab

Leaf from a disbound manuscript of Firdausi, Shahnama (Book of kings), copied c 1430 for Ibrahim Sultan of Shiraz

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Ouseley Add 176, fol 92r

One of the most tragic episodes of the Shahnama occurs when the great hero Rustam kills an enemy in battle, in the course of which he discovers the young man is the son he fathered when he spent a night with the beautiful princess Tahmina while a guest in her father’s castle.

The artist has enhanced Rustam’s appearance of power and virility as he kneels above his beardless opponent, sword raised in readiness to strike. Rustam’s traditional costume of a tiger-striped robe and leopard-head helmet are carefully drawn and the opponents’ armoured horses observe the life and death struggle from the safety of the text’s margins.