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Thumbs up for ......
At the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I saw a miniature with an image of a mace. A couple of days later while visiting another art collection in Boston, the Isabella Gardener Museum, I came across the Persian mace on display.
The last one was identified by Iranian specialists and native speakers as a mace of the late 18th-or early 19th-century.
When I mentioned that to the curator of Islamic Art at the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) she respond very quickly that MFA also has a Persian mace of the19th century.
I was intrigued and interested to know more about that artifact and popular image on the miniature and in the texts of A.Ferdowsi, “Shahnammeh: (The Book of Kings).”
Right in the story about “The first Kings” (A new translation by Dick Davis, N.Y. 2006) we read, “Discovery of Fire and the establishment of the feast of Sadeh,” Hushang “separated iron from its rocky home. In this way he created the blacksmith’s craft, fashioning maces...” (p.4)
On the miniature from 17th century from Shahnameh,“Bahram Gur Slays Two lions and Gains the crown” (MFA) we see a Persian mace identical to the original one from the Gardener Museum (Boston).
From Shahnameh (A. Ferdowsi) “Prince Bahram Gur’s late father had been a tyrannical king, so Bahram met with opposition when he claimed his inherited right to rule Persia. To prove himself worthy, he proposed to snatch the crown from the throne guarded by a pair of tethered lions. Although the lions broke their chains and attacked, he dispatched them both with his ox-headed mace and put on the crown, silencing all resistance.” (The top of the mace on the miniature made from gold and a handle made possibly of wood.)
“Sohrab overcomes Rostam” (Shahnameh, 2006, p.207)
”When dawn came, he buckled on his armor and grasped his huge mace.”
“When did you wake? How did you pass the night?
And are you still determined we should fight
But throw your mace and sword down, put aside
These thoughts of war, this truculence and pride.”
(Father didn’t know that he was going against the son) after an exchange of spears, Sohrab evaded his opponent’s mace (club), but because of the weight of the club (mace) Rostam lost his balance and fell.
Persian mace of 18th century, on display in the Gothic room at the Isabella Gardener Museum (Boston) made of iron.
"The Mace with Bull's Head is a late 18th- or early 19th-century copy of a Persian ceremonial mace (or staff). The original dates from the 6th century B.C. and was used by the followers of Zoroaster, the founder of a powerful religious sect in Iran.
The piece sits on a table in the center of the Gothic Room and is easily missed by the casual visitor. (By me too at first.) It is made of Myiron, inlaid with gold and silver, and is covered with elaborately patterned etched designs. The inscription on the bull's forehead is difficult to decipher but appears to read: "1200" (referring to the Muslim year 1200 A.H., 18th c.) and "Feridun-as-Sultan" (King Feridun) Mystical Persian King.
Examples of Middle Eastern art are rare in Mrs. Gardner's collection [Note: this is not entirely accurate, there are several Middle Eastern objects] and where or when she acquired this piece remains a mystery, but one can't help thinking that she too was intrigued by the whimsical character of the beast."
In a letter from 1982, Prudence Harper, Curator of Near Eastern Art at the MET, considered the mace 19th century Iranian (Kashan). The inscription mentioned above was deciphered by Dr. Safa-Isfahani, professor at Yale University (1987). Her reading of the forehead came to us by way of Norvin Hean, Prof. Emeritus of Comparative Religion, also at Yale. Hean also mentioned the appearance of the mace in several illuminations.
It measures 66.3 cm in length. There is a similar mace at "Olana," one of the historic sites protected by the Division of Historic Preservation, Peebles Island, and Waterford, New York 12188.
So, what the mace is: at first it’s a simple weapon (Tahmures “lifted his heavy mace to his shoulders, ready for battle,” p.5), a ceremonial club that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful blows.
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