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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Story of Bahman Seeking Rustam and Launching a Boulder toward Him (text, recto and verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Work Type
manuscript folio
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Shiraz
Safavid period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
37.1 x 24.1 cm (14 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Christies, London, 17 October 1995, lot no. 79]. [Mansour Gallery, London, before, 1998], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1998-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Text folio with title “Bahman arrives at the hunting ground of Rustam and Zal” and a second title, now illegible
Verso. Text corresponds with Mohl, vol. 4, pp. 586-589, lines 2698 - 2728; text describes Bahman meeting Zal, seeking and sizing up Rustam who is cooking an onager, and then launching a boulder towards him from the mountain-top, hoping to slay him.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
88 A–B

Double page: Rustam Kicks Aside the Rock Thrown by Bahman
A. Verso: text, with title “Bahman arrives at the hunting ground of Rustam and Zal” and a second title, now illegible
Folio: 37.1 × 24.1 cm (14 5/8 × 9 1/2 in.)
B. Recto: text and illustration
Folio: 37 × 24.1 cm (14 9/16 × 9 1/2 in.)

King Gushtasp sent his son Isfandiyar to bring the mighty hero Rustam to court in chains, promising Isfandiyar the throne if he could accomplish this feat. Searching for Rustam, Isfandiyar’s son Bahman came upon the hero roasting an onager in his hunting grounds and decided to kill him immediately, sparing his father a dangerous confrontation. From the top of a mountain he pried loose a large boulder and sent it rolling downhill toward Rustam, whose brother Zavara heard the noise and cried out in warning. Rather than move, however, the hero calmly waited until the stone was nearly upon him and then kicked it away. Impressed by Rustam’s power, Bahman approached him and told him of Isfandiyar’s mission.

In the painting, Rustam is shown at the crucial moment of danger, yet, as the text describes, he remains seated, roasting his supper on a spit and merely stretching out his leg to kick away the large rock. Next to him his horse, Rakhsh, grazes undisturbed. Rustam’s hunting party rounds the horizon at the upper right, unaware of the incident, but two figures at the lower left witness and point at the scene. From behind the rocky ridge on the left, Bahman looks on, his finger to his mouth in astonishment. Animals, birds, and flowers rendered in delicate detail provide a soothing contrast to this tense moment of drama.

Mika M. Natif

Publication History

  • Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013)

Exhibition History

Related Works

Verification Level

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