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No. 101 Rostam binds the Black Div

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No. 101 Rostam binds the Black Div

Azadsarv, Shabrangnameh
Late Mughal period: probably Mysore, late 18th century
Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper
London, British Museum, 1928,1206.0.1

This leaf is not from a copy of the Shahnameh, but from a successor epic about the Black Div, son of the Shahnameh’s White Div (No. 47). Both the event and this illustration are modelled on Rostam’s slaying of Akvan. This bold page with its six text columns poses questions. The lightly tinted landscape shows a well assimilated influence from European watercolour and suggests a late 18th-century date. The strong sense of physicality of the div’s plump body, together with the trunks he wears, argue for an Indian rather than Persian origin. The stylized form of the div’s muzzle and that of Rostam’s snow-leopard cap recall various artefacts made for Tipu Sultan of Mysore (1782–1799). He owned two of the Shahnamehs displayed here (Nos. 76 and 81). This folio may be associated with his patronage.

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