Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
87 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074


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Between Page and Picture: History and Myth in the Persian Book of Kings

January 3 - August 6, 2023
In Ripin Gallery

Between Page and Picture: History and Myth in the Persian Book of Kings

January 3 - August 6, 2023
In Ripin Gallery

Virtual Tour

The Shahnameh, or “Book of Kings,” is an epic written by the Persian poet Albo’l-Qasem Ferdowsi (940–ca. 1025). A partly historical and partly mythical tale, the Shahnameh was written to preserve the historical imprint of the ancient glory and vast influence of the civilization of Persia (today’s Iran). The text follows the creation of the world and the first man, to the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, to the subsequent Muslim conquest of Greater Iran in the early 7th century.

The lengthy epic, consisting of 50,000 couplets—or paired rhyming lines—also serves as a political, religious, and moral treatise. The poem includes battles of good against evil, sons against fathers, and heroes against tyrants or beasts. There are tales of love and loss, the rise and fall of power, and the ultimate corruption of man. All of the characters in the narrative are bound by the inescapable shackles of fate.

A few hundred years after the Shahnameh was written, artists and calligraphers began to produce beautifully illustrated and written versions of the text. This exhibition presents examples of illustrated Shahnameh pages from the 15th to the 17th centuries, along with contemporary works by the Iranian-American artist Ala Ebtekar, whose work draws from this tradition.

Organized by

Roya Ahmadi-Moghadam

OC 2023

Kevin R. E. Greenwood

Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art

With assistance from

Selin Ünlüönen

Oberlin College Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Art History

Driek (OC 1965) and Michael (OC 1964) Zirinsky


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