The death of the hero Rustam and his horse Rakhsh, a painting in gouache on paper


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This painting belongs to a Shahnama manuscript that was produced at the end of the IlKhanid dynasty of Persia in the 1330s. This is the final episode in the saga of the great warrior Rustam and his faithful red horse Rakhsh. Rustam's jealous half-brother Shaghhad plotted with the king of Kabul to kill him. They dug a deep pit, lining it with spears and concealing it with bracken. They then invited Rustam to accompany them on a hunting trip, and led him straight to the trap. Falling into the pit, Rustam's horse Rakhsh was impaled on the spears and killed, and Rustam was fatally injured. Realizing his half-brother's treachery, the wounded Rustam begged Shaghhad to string his bow for him, so that he could protect himself from wild animals while he lay dying. Foolishly, Shaghhad obliged, and Rustam shot him dead, pinning him to a tree with his final, well-aimed arrow. The painting is divided into three parts. On the left, the curve of Rakhsh's body in the pit is echoed by the bending tree-trunk and sagging body of Shaghhad on the right. In the middle, the dying Rustam sits up straight to fire his last arrow, a vertical line at the centre of the story.

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  • Title: The death of the hero Rustam and his horse Rakhsh, a painting in gouache on paper
  • Date Created: 1330/1340
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 40.70cm (page); Width: 29.60cm (page); Height: 15.20cm (image); Width: 29.00cm (image)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: persian myth/legend
  • Registration number: 1948,1211,0.25
  • Production place: Made in Tabriz
  • Period/culture: Ilkhanid dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Eckstein, Bernard