عنوان مقاله [English]
Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh is not only the most famous Persian epic poem but also the most reproduced and illustrated work of Iranian literature. The Davari and the Emad ol-Kottab versions of the Shahnameh are two of the last handwritten versions from the Qajar era, dating back to the reign of the fourth and fifth Qajar rulers, namely Naser al-Din Shah and Mozaffar al-Din Shah, respectively. The Davari Shahnameh, kept in the Reza Abbasi Museum, is calligraphed by Mohammad Davari. Spanning 1,223 pages, it comes in four volumes and contains 68 illustrated scenes. The first illustration is signed by Davari and dated 1854, whereas the illustrations by Agha Lotf-Ali date from the later years of the book’s production, namely 1863 - 1864. Probably the last of Qajar-era handwritten and illustrated versions of the epic, the Emad ol-Kottab Shahnameh came roughly 35 years after the Davari version, during the reign of Mozaffar al-Din Shah. It was commissioned by Naqib ol-Mamalek and created in the capital Tehran in 1898. The version spans 64,000 verses in 1,280 pages and includes about 40 illustrated scenes. While nothing is known about the illustrator despite the book being more recent and a commissioned work, the calligraphy was done by Mirza Mohammad Hossein Seifi Qazvini, better known as Emad ol-Kottab, a renowned calligrapher of the era. The illustrations show stylistic influences from early-Qajar visual arts. After completion, the book was acquired in 1899 by Mirza Ali-Akbar Khan Nafisi, better known as Nazem al-Atebba, and transferred to the Golestan Palace Royal Library. However, it was forgotten due to not being registered in the library’s official list of manuscripts. This failure at registration led the Davari version to win the title of the last illustrated handwritten Shahnameh, influencing later historical studies. Although there are morality tales and love stories in the Shahnameh, the central theme in every version of the epic is the battles between legendary Persian heroes and foreign enemies, making battle scene illustrations one of the most frequent in the illustrated versions, including the Davari and the Emad ol-Kottab. Despite their marked stylistic differences, the illustrations from both books follow an old visual tradition in representing the bravery of legendary Iranian heroes. This study aims to analyze how the theme of warfare is represented in the Davari and the Emad ol-Ketab versions of the Shahnameh, by comparing the visual elements and structure of six illustrations from the books. Through this formalist comparison, the study shows how stylistically unique each version depicts a given battle scene while remaining faithful to the source text. The significance of the study is that while warfare is the principal theme in the Shahnameh, its artistic manifestations, especially in the form of miniature illustrations, have been studied less than its material elements, such as the weaponry used in the battles. Furthermore, the true value of the Emad ol-Kottab Shahnameh has long been overshadowed by the Davari version, which is often mistakenly regarded as the last Qajar handwritten Shahnameh; therefore, this study is an influential step towards a better examination and introduction of both books. The study’s approach is to compare their illustrations, as comparison of works of visual art can reveal their formal merits more accurately. The research question is: “How and based on what elements can we identify the themes and main characters in the battle scene illustrations from the Davari and the Emad ol-Kottab versions of the Shahnameh?” In terms of purpose, the research is developmental, and in terms of method, it is a comparative and historical study that analyzes a set of particular cases. The data was collected from existing text and images, and the statistical population consisted of the illustrated battle scenes from the two Shahnameh versions. Of these illustrations, three from each book were selected through stratified random sampling, and each artwork was paired with a compositionally similar one selected from the other book. The studied illustrations from the Davari Shahnameh are the work of Agha Lotf-Ali Suratgar Shirazi and are stylistically closer to those from the Emad ol-Kottab version. The artworks depict hand-to-hand combats, charging armies, and battlefield victories, making the studied set thematically diverse. In this qualitative study, the control variable was the representations of warfare, and the dependent variable was the artistic style and constituent formal elements (e.g. shapes, colors, proportions, and atmosphere) of those representations. The study found that the artworks from both books follow Qajar illustration conventions in terms of composition as well as drawing style of faces and some other elements; however, they deviate from those rules by not distinguishing the main characters by giving them distinct outfits or marking them with special colors. The actions and elements in the scenes, such as the clash and entanglement of armies, brandishing of swords, ready-to-release bows, and arrows, and even severed heads on the ground, create a generic picture of warfare. The selected illustrations from the Davari Shahnameh - titled “The Battle of Esfandiyar and Gorgsar”, “The Battle of Manuchehr and Tur,” and “The Siege of Castle Tayer by Shapur Zol’aktaf” - demonstrate the aforementioned qualities. The titular characters are not visually distinguished in any way: for instance, Manuchehr is depicted very much like the others, including the enemy soldiers and even his rival Tur; and Castle Tayer, placed in the background in the Shapur Zol’aktaf illustration, resembles many of the other castles in the Shahnameh, such as castles Ruyin and Bahman, and is only identifiable by the text included in the illustration. In some cases, inappropriate depiction of characters, such as Esfandiyar with a forked beard and Shapur as a just-turned-teenager boy, makes them even more difficult to recognize, insofar as the artist had to write their names in the illustration (as was common in the Qajar era) to aid their identification. In the Emad ol-Kottab Shahnameh, which features many stories later added to the original epic, the scenes of “The Battle of Rostam and the Turanians”, “The Campaign of the King of Kairouan,” and “The Army of Tus Moves along the Border of Turan-Zamin” are among those that depict warfare. The main characters in these illustrations are denied some of their visual features; for instance, Rostam is depicted without his characteristic forked beard, demon-head helmet, and tiger-skin war shirt, and Tus is not a middle-aged man. Moreover, the source text is only slightly helpful in identifying those characters, as it deviates from the original Shahnameh and contains additional material. Regardless of all these flaws, however, the illustrations are clear in their depiction of rival armies confronting each other. This is achieved in all six artworks by giving the soldiers appropriate uniforms, arranging them slantwise, having them clash on both sides of the page, and even making them entangled with each other. Accordingly, it can be argued that illustrations from both the Davari and the Emad ol-Kottab versions - or at least those that were explored in this study - prioritize general representation of warfare over distinguishing the main characters and depicting them as described in the source text. While they have clear stylistic differences, both series of illustrations depict battle scenes in almost the same fashion: They use the same shapes, forms, colors, proportions, and other formal elements for the soldiers of both sides in every scene, which makes the armies indistinguishable and even hinders the recognition of the main characters, namely the army leaders. For this reason, any given battle scene illustration from the books not only depicts its related part of the story but can also fit the description of many other Shahnameh battle scenes and represent the struggles to win those wars. In the studied scenes, a general depiction of warfare is preferred to subjectivization of the story, and the subject matter or the main characters cannot be discerned from the illustrations alone and require familiarity with the content of the source text.