verso Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Episodes from the Story of Siyavush (text, recto and verso), folio from a manuscript of the Shahnama by Firdawsi
Work Type
manuscript folio
late 16th century to early 17th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Isfahan
Safavid period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper
34 x 21.5 cm (13 3/8 x 8 7/16 in.)
[Hadji Baba Ancient Art, London, 1985], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1985-2002), 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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Recto. Text describes Sudaba deceiving Kay Kavus, and Sudaba finding a reason to kill Siyavush.
Verso. Text describes Kay Kavus asking an astrologer about his children.

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

Double page: The Trial by Fire of Siyavush
A. Verso: text and illustration
Folio: 34 × 21.4 cm (13 3/8 × 8 7/16 in.)
B. Recto: text
Folio: 34 × 21.5 cm (13 3/8 × 8 7/16 in.)

The depiction of Prince Siyavush’s test by fire is here confined to a single page, rather than spread over two as in cat. 96 A–B. The scene is therefore predictably condensed, with Siyavush shown galloping into the fire while his father, also mounted, watches anxiously from the forecourt of his nearby palace. Peering from the window above is the would-be seductress, Sudaba, who gestures toward Siyavush. The handsome prince, his black mount, and the towering golden flames that engulf them are here closer to the center of the composition.

Although hairstyles and headgear differ, the two versions of this scene in the Calderwood Collection feature similar architectural decoration. Furthermore, the compositional elements that they share irrespective of format suggest the existence of an established iconographic convention for illustrating this episode of the Shāhnāma.

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), p. 249, cat. 114 A-B, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

The Art of Storytelling: Five Tales from Asia, Then and Now, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, 09/08/2015 - 12/13/2015

Related Works

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