‘Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings’ Review - WSJ

‘Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings’ Review - WSJ...
wsj.com 18/11/2015 Arts

Keywords:#Iran, #Islamic, #Islamic_art, #Persian, #Princeton, #Princeton_University, #Rakhsh, #Rustam, #Shahnama, #Shahnameh, #Shiraz, #Wsj.com

An exhibition helps us better understand the ‘art of the book,’ one of the most prized genres in Islamic societies.
By Lee Lawrence
Princeton, N.J.
A detail from a page of Princeton’s Shahnama depicting ‘Rustam Chooses His Horse, Rakhsh.’ Photo: Princeton University Library

* * * Imagine a 948-page book so large that, open, it stretches 3 feet across. Imagine further that as you read of heroism and intrigue, romance and war, bloody battles and festive celebrations, every so often you turn the page to find not columns of words but a painting in colors as rich as its composition is dense. “Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings” can’t offer visitors to the Princeton University Art Museum that tactile experience, but the show helps us better understand the “art of the book,” historically one of the most prized genres in Islamic societies.
The exhibition does this by displaying all 48 paintings of a 1589-90 Shahnama (often spelled Shahnameh) made in Shiraz, a center for the production of luxury books in south central Iran. (A 1983 bequest by book collector Clara S. Peck, the manuscript has been carefully—and temporarily—disassembled by conservators to preserve its pages.) The paintings work in concert, sharing conventions of composition and a palette of golds, blues, lavenders, greens and oranges. With some 50,000 couplets of mythical, legendary and historical exploits from which to choose, the illustrations include dancers and musicians entertaining courtiers, men on horseback playing polo, and celebrations unfolding in beautiful indoor-outdoor settings. Warriors take prisoners, slay enemies, mourn their dead. Horsemen charge, arrows fly, swords bisect heads, and in some hunting scenes, man is but one among many animals pursuing prey.
Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings
Princeton University Art Museum
Through Jan. 24, 2016
The illustrations appear at irregular intervals, suggesting that the workshop master was not following a template but, rather, making sure particular scenes were depicted. Guest curator Marianna Shreve Simpson speculates that the book was, in fact, a royal wedding gift with political overtones. This would certainly explain the groom approaching his betrothed in the final Shahnama scene depicted and the inclusion of a minor incident in which the people of the bride’s home province bow to the king.
Throughout, Ms. Simpson reminds us of the paintings’ original context with occasional bound copies of Shahnamas and illuminated pages of text penned by calligrapher Qivam ibn Muhammad Shirazi, the only contributor whose name we know. Still, the illustrations dominate. In one remarkable scene, a giant dragon swoops down from the mountain to devour a cow offered by fearful locals; in another, the sea surrounding a king’s ship swarms with earthly and otherworldly creatures. And no matter what occupies center stage, check the periphery—there may be monsters and angels, long-tailed simurgs and grotesque demons, some even incarnating as rocks. For lovers of painting, this presentation is akin to skipping the greens in favor of the dessert cart.
Ms. Lawrence writes about Asian and Islamic art for the Journal.

---An exhibition helps us better understand the ‘art of the book,’ one of the most prized genres in Islamic societies.---

Read more from Source »

Related articles based on keyword density
Iran’s water crisis the product of decades of bad planning - The Washi...
washingtonpost.com 03/07/2014 Nature
By Jason Rezaian July 2 at 7:00 AM Follow @jrezaian TEHRAN — Iran is headed for a water shortage of epic proportions, and little is being done to re...View Details»

History of Iran: Safavid Empire 1502 - 1736...
iranchamber.com 18/02/2015 History
History of Iran Safavid Empire 1502 - 1736 By: Shapour Ghasemi After the disastrous invasion of Mongols, in the 1200s, migrated Turks and Mongolian t...View Details»

Travels with the (Not So) Intrepid Mr. D’Arcy: A Persian Story ...
lareviewofbooks.org 16/09/2016 Arts
By Daniel Newman “IF STUDENT DIARIES are not often seen as the transformative stuff of history, then they should be,” writes Nile Green proleptically....View Details»

Timeline of Iranian History from Ancient Persia to the Islamic Republi...
on-the-matrix.com 24/09/2015 History
Dynasty, Ruler or Event Begin End Birth of Zoroaster Sometime between 10th and 7th century BCE Achaemenian Dynasty Cyrus the Great 559 BCE 530 BCE F...View Details»

Politics and the Persian Language - Wall Street Journal - WSJ.com...
stream.wsj.com 07/12/2013 Arts
By Lee Lawrence Abu'l Qasim Firdausi's 'Book of Kings' Zina Saunders Whether recounted in sweet-smelling tea shops or presented in illustrated manus...View Details»