Prime Student 6-month Trial

Ilkhanid Illustration
Bizhan kills Mahuy to avenge Yazdagird
from the 1341 Inju Shahnama, Shiraz

Accession Number: AKM37
Place: Iran, Shiraz
Dimensions: 37 x 30.4 cm
Date: 741 AH /1341
Materials and Technique: Ink, coloured pigments and gold on paper
Containing nearly 60,000 verses, the epic poem the Shahnameh by Firdausi recounts Iran’s mythical, legendary, and historical past from earliest times to the arrival of the Muslim Arabs in the mid-7th century AD. Near the epic’s conclusion, Firdausi recounts the events following King Yazdigird III’s abandonment by his own forces during a battle against an army of Turks. Yazdigird, the last legitimate ruler of Iran’s Sasanian dynasty, took refuge in a mill. There, he was killed through the treachery of Mahuy, who promptly assumed the Iranian throne. A powerful warrior named Bizhan, from the ancient city of Samarqand (in present-day Uzbekistan), learned of these events and set out with an army seeking revenge. Mahuy was quickly taken captive and brought before Bizhan. Fearful that he would be flayed alive, Mahuy implored Bizhan to cut off his head. Instead, Bizhan cut off Mahuy’s hands, feet, ears, and nose and paraded him around the camp on horseback. As a final coup de grâce, Bizhan ordered Mahuy and his three sons to be burned alive.

Further Reading
In AKM37 (folio 321 or 322 recto), the blood-red background of this illustration aptly conveys the violent climax of Firdausi’s epic poem. At the centre of the composition is the traitor Mahuy, who is being tortured for orchestrating King Yazdigird’s murder. Lying on the ground in front of Mahuy are his three sons, whose closed eyes indicate that they are already dead. All four of these ill-fated family members are dressed in prisoner garb: naked torsos and white trousers.

At the far right of the composition, the powerful warrior Bizhan (not the same Bizhan who kills Human in AKM33) directs Mahuy’s torture from a throne-like seat with the help of various soldiers and other assistants. The artist depicts Mahuy with his feet and hands missing; his torture and impending death are an explicit warning about the brutal repercussions of regicide.

This is the front (recto) side of the final text folio in the 1341 Shahnameh. It is no longer easy to determine the original folio number, here estimated at 321 or 322. At some point, the written and illustrated surface was remounted with a “fresh” margin (possibly from the same manuscript), bearing the number 58 in the upper right. In addition, a tear along the red column divider was repaired with small strips of thin paper. The other side of the folio is discussed as AKM37v (folio 321 or 322 verso).

— Marianna Shreve Simpson

Source: Aga Khan Museum AKM37

Geneva, Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Title of Work: Shahnama (1341)
Manuscript: 2005.1.28-37 (Ir.M. 6-6/I)
Accession Number: 2005.1.37 (Ir. M.6/Ir)
Chapter 50 - Yazdagird (16 years)
Scene: Bizhan kills Mahuy to avenge Yazdagird
Dimensions (h x w): 232 x 185 mm
Reconstructed Folio: 322r
Hijri Date: 741 Dhu'l-Qa'da 20
Gregorian Date: 1341 May 14
School: Inju'id Shiraz
Source: Shahnama Project

Back to the 1341 Inju Shahnama