Naqsh-e Rostam I is the last and most achieved of the 3 investiture rock reliefs attributed to the king Ardashir Ist, founder of the sasanian dynasty ruling the 2nd Persian empire. This relief has a major iconographic interest, for having completed almost all the picture standards, making it a model that will direct the way later sasanian artists will proceed to the carving of the rock reliefs immortalizing both the investiture and the victories of Ardashir’s successors.
The scene shows Ardashir on the left, receiving a ribonned ring of power (called farshiang) from the hand of zoroastrian god Ahuramazda at the right side of the register. The divinity holds in his left hand the barsom (stick symbolizing the divine power), and wears his typical crenelled crown. The king's hairs are fasten into a big spheric bow, all contained into a veil forming the typical sasanian kings hairdressing (called Korymbos). The king pays respect to the god by curving his 2nd finger forward in front of his mouth. A servant stands behind Ardashir, protecting him from the flies, agitating a sticky device. The horse of the king walks over the dead body of Artabanus V, former parthian king, ruler of the Iranian plateau, killed by a revolted Ardashir. Such image is intended to remind everyone that such reign started on a victory against the previous ruler. In a symmetric way, the horse of Ahuramazda, walks over the dead humanized figure of Ahriman, divinity of the bad.
When comparing it to the previous reliefs of Firuzabad II
and Naqsh-e Rajab III , one can easy see that the composition dramatically evolved. The frame preparing the register is complete, and its proportions are very close to those of a golden rectangle (the lengths of its sides are proportional to the numbers composing the mathematic sequence of Fibonacci). The posture of each character (including the horses) and the disposition of their limbs follow diagonal lines which are parallelic and perfectly symmetric relatively to a median vertical line passing through the Farshiang. All these lines make angles which will also be respected in later reliefs. The proportions of the animals are also ruled by very strict conventions: the line passing through the top of the back of each horse and their eyes is the exact horizontal median line, while the line bordering their abdomen is at half height of this horizontal median line. The technical execution also is accomplished: the relief is polished so sharply that its quality approachs the achaemenian embossed 3D sculptures, the carving being no more plane but all in volume. Such use of volume is completed by the use of perspective, as shows the position of the servant standing behind the royal horse. Abandoning completely the parthian static fashion, the scene is now dynamic, and an impression of movement is clearly given by the horses. The movement is also enhanced by an artifice: Ahuramazda still has its hand closed around the ring, while the king’s hand is still open waiting, suggesting the movement. The clothes are now executed with more attention, with gracious bended wrinkles.
Some scholars think that by carving his relief at the sacred place of Naqsh-e Rostam where were already located 4 royal achaemenian tombs ( see it on Rob’s stream), an achaemenian temple , and at last 1 elamite rock relief, Ardashir intended probably to back the legitimacy of his accession to the power by drawing so the lines of his reign in continuity with his mythical predecessors of the elamite kingdom and 1st Persian empire.
Thx to YoungRobV for posting his precious pictures
Taken at Naqsh-e Rostam, Vicinity of Marvdasht, Fars province, Iran, April 2008.