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Gushtasp Slaying the Dragon, Page from an Illustrated Manuscript of the Shahnama of Firdawsi

The legendary Iranian prince Gushtasp slays a terrifying dragon in this frequently illustrated scene from the Shāhnāma (Book of Kings), put to verse by the poet Firdawsi around 1010. Denied the throne by his father, the prince Gushtasp left Iran only to return triumphantly after proving his worth against the dragon. In this scene, Gushtasp fulfills one of the more serious princely roles as the brave and courageous protector of the people, suggesting that court life did not always involve pomp and circumstance. Far Eastern influences abound, as in Gushtasp's exquisitely detailed, Chinese inspired cloud collar, his facial features, and even the dragon emerging from its rocky lair. This combination of Iranian and Chinese aesthetics alludes to the direct exchange between the two cultures during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, one that inspired a standardization of the khitā'ī, or Chinese-inspired, style in the art of the eastern Islamic world, especially Iran.

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