Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
This object does not yet have a description.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Text concerning Rustam’s fifth and sixth trials (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
37.2 x 23.8 cm (14 5/8 x 9 3/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Christies, London, 17 October 1995, lot no. 79]. [Mansour Gallery, London, before 1997], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1997-2002), 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

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.


Mighty Rustam is the chief hero in the Shahnama. In the course of an adventurous life that spanned centuries, he battled for Iran and her rulers. Here, in the last of his seven courses, he slew great White Demon (Div) of Mazanderan. After a desperate struggle, he cut out his adversary's liver to bring it back to the captive and blinded Iranian king Kay Kavus, for only drops of the White Demon's blood could restore the king's sight.

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

Double page: Rustam Kills the White Div
A. Verso: text, concerning Rustam’s fifth and sixth trials
Folio: 37.2 × 23.8 cm (14 5/8 × 9 3/8 in.)
B. Recto: text and illustration
Folio: 37.1 × 23.8 cm (14 5/8 × 9 3/8 in.)

The great hero Rustam had to perform a series of labors to free the king of Iran, Kay Kavus, who had been captured by the evil Ahriman. This illustration depicts Rustam’s seventh and last feat, in which he vanquished the fearsome demon known as the White Div.[1] Advised by his captive guide, Awlad, to ambush the monster in his cave during the day (since demons prefer to sleep when the sun is hot), Rustam tied Awlad to a tree for safekeeping, drew his sword, and killed the lesser demons who were guarding the White Div’s lair. In the darkness of the cave, the hero encountered the monstrous demon, and the two fought fiercely until Rustam managed to maim the creature and plunge a dagger into his chest, extracting his liver.

The painting focuses on Rustam’s moment of triumph. At the center, the hero, wearing his famous tiger-skin coat and leopard helmet, stabs his enemy. All around him lie the scattered body parts of the dead demons and the severed limbs of the White Div himself. Rustam, in contrast, appears unharmed, even though the text states that he was wounded. Around the cave are a number of surviving demons, as well as Awlad, tied to a tree. Rustam’s magnificent horse, Rakhsh, awaits his master at the left.

Mika M. Natif

[1] For further discussion of this painting, see, in this volume, Marianna Shreve Simpson’s essay, “The Illustrated Shāhnāma in Sixteenth-Century Shiraz,” 77–113.

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

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at