Sizing Up the Shahnama in Medieval and Later Persian Art
October 6, 2010
Marianna Shreve Simpson, Independent Scholar
No work of Persian literature has attracted more artistic energy and attention than the Shahnama (“Book of Kings”), the great epic poem completed by Firdawsi around the year 1010. In the early 1300s, the text caught the attention of Iran’s Mongol rulers, whose enthusiasm made it the principal source of imagery in Persian art. Over the following four centuries, hundreds upon hundreds of manuscripts of the Shahnama were illustrated in artistic centers throughout Iran and neighboring regions. From narrow bands embedded in a text page to ambitious scenes nearly filling a folio, Shahnama illustrations fueled the development of the Persian painting tradition.
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The Norma Jean Calderwood Lecture Fund honors a longtime friend of the Harvard Art Museums who pursued graduate study in Islamic art at Harvard and who for many years taught Islamic and Asian art at Boston College and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.