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Shahnameh: then and now (online event)

25 June @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

*Recording of this event is available here*

As this year is the millennium of Ferdowsi’s death in 1020, this online event will discuss the Shahnameh: as a work of literature, as the inspiration for visual art and for its historical and contemporary cultural importance.

‘Tyrant King Zahhak nailed to the Mount Demavand under the supervision of King Faridun.’ (c) Ibrahim Sultan Shahnama, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

‘Hitler nailed to the Mount with Mussolini and Tojo as snakes on his shoulders, inspected by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt.’ (c) Kimon Marengo (Kem).

Why did Ferdowsi feel the need to memorialise the legends of ancient Iran in epic form and what were the sources of his information? How did his poetic skill ensure the success of his work? How did the stories in the Shahnameh lend themselves to visual representation and how did artists over the generations find ways to illustrate princely and commercial copies for royal patrons and the ready market for fine manuscripts? How can a work written one thousand years ago retain its significance and meaning for contemporary audiences and continue to provide inspiration for modern artists?

To help explore some of these questions will be Professor Gabrielle van den Berg, Dr Barbara Brend and Professor Pouya Afshar; the discussion will be chaired by the President of BIPS, Professor Charles Melville.

The comparative research and the publication of these two images together is credited Dr Firuza Melville.

Register for the event using the link below. Please note that the webinar capacity is 500.


About the speakers:  

Professor Gabrielle Van den Berg teaches courses on the cultural history of Central Asia and Iran at Leiden University. In 2016, she received an NWO VICI grant for her project “Turks, texts and territory: Imperial ideology and cultural production in Central Eurasia.” Her research interests include classical Persian literature and the history of Central Asia and Iran. Van den Berg is a member of the board for NISIS (Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies) and LUCIS (Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society).

Dr Barbara Brend is an independent scholar, who has carried out major research on form and meaning in Persian and Mughal manuscript illustration. Her books include Islamic Art (1991); The Emperor Akbar’s Khamsa of Nizami (1995); Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau’s Khamsah (2003) and Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah of Firdausi (2010). Dr. Brend was Curator of the 2010 exhibition, Epic of the Persian Kings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 

Professor Pouya Afshar is an alumnus from the California Institute of Arts Character Animation department and is a graduate of University of California Los Angeles Graduate Department of Film and Television focusing in Animation and Digital Media. He has exhibited his work as an animator and visual artist throughout Los Angeles and United States at renowned locations such as Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Center, Bovard Auditorium at University of Southern California, Royce Hall at University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Santa Monica Art Studios, 18th Street Art Center, Art Miami/Context and Shulamit Gallery. Pouya is the creator, character designer and producer of the animated series “Rostam in Wonderland.”

Professor Charles Melville was elected BIPS President in 2018. He is Professor of Persian History, Fellow of Pembroke College and Founding Director since 1999 of the Shahnama Project. He is also President of the Islamic Manuscripts Association and Vice Chair of the Academic Council at Iran Heritage Foundation. He has travelled widely in Iran and Central Asia. His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods and the Persian manuscript culture.  He is currently working on the illustration of Persian historical texts and editor of Persian Studies Series.

Image captions

Figure 1: ‘Hitler nailed to the Mount with Mussolini and Tojo as snakes on his shoulders, inspected by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt.’ Kem Marengo, Professor Arthur Arberry, University of Cambridge, and Professor Mojtaba Minovi, University of Tehran, 1942. One of the six of W.W.II anti-Nazi propaganda postcards emulating the main characters from the 11th century Persian epic poem Shahnama prepared for the Teheran Conference (28 November-2 December 1943) © Firuza Melville

Figure 2: ‘Tyrant King Zahhak nailed to the Mount Demavand under the supervision of King Faridun.’ Ferdowsi, Ibrahim Sultan Shahnama, Shiraz, ca. 1430, Ms Ouseley Add. 186, f. 30r, Bodleian Library, Oxford. © Firuza Melville


25 June
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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