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Art Without Borders: Arts of Syria and Iran

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Jerrilynn D. Dodds, Harlequin Adair Dammann Chair in Islamic Studies, Sarah Lawrence College

"Iran: Isfahan and Tabriz"

The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524–76), made in Tabriz, is one of the most opulent and beautiful manuscripts in the history of Persian painting, and it unlocks something of the elegant culture and mystic preoccupations of the Safavid court. Under Shah' 'Abbas, the city of Isfahan became the new capital, in which architecture and city planning created a dramatic stage set for the Safavid polity, with an enormous city square, palaces, gardens, and a tiled domed mosque. Much of this can still be seen today.

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Above: Detail of Folio from an illustrated manuscript, "Isfandiyar's Third Course: He Slays a Dragon", Folio 434v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp. Painting attributed to Qasim ibn 'Ali (active ca. 1525–60). Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020). Made in Iran, Tabriz, ca. 1530. Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper. Painting: H. 11 in. (27.9 cm), W. 10 5/16 in. (26.2 cm), Page: H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm), W. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm), Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm), W. 16 in. (40.6 cm), Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm), W. 16 in. (40.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.51)


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