News | Published: Mon 13 Sep 2010

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Ancient Persia brought to life in new exhibition

A landmark exhibition now open at the Fitzwilliam explores the monumental artistic legacy of one of the world’s greatest literary epics: the 1000 year-old Persian 'Book of Kings', or Shahnameh.

Completed by the poet Ferdowsi in 1010 AD, this vast narrative poem telling the 'Iranian version' of the history of the world is an icon of Persian culture, inspiring some of the world's most exquisite manuscripts. To mark the passing of a millennium since its completion, Epic of the Persian Kings: The Art of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (until 9 January 2011) now brings together nearly one hundred paintings from these lavishly illustrated manuscripts spanning almost 800 years, in the most comprehensive exhibition of Shahnameh art yet mounted in this country.

The exhibition, which will only be on display at the Fitzwilliam, presents a spectacular range of richly illustrated manuscripts and of Persian miniature paintings - drawn from public and private collections in the UK including the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, the British Museum, the British Library, the V&A, the Royal Asiatic Society, the Bodleian Library and collections within Cambridge.

Timothy Potts, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said "It is impossible to overstate the significance of Ferdowsi’s 'Book of Kings', which remains, a millennium after its completion, one of the most popular texts of secular poetry in Southwest Asia. In its ambition, scope and spectacular range of displays, this exhibition at the Fitzwilliam is truly a landmark, and for many visitors will be a revelatory introduction to the Shahnameh and its world."

A diverse programme of events will accompany the exhibition, from talks and lectures by international authorities on the Shahnameh and creative workshops for all ages, to concerts of Persian music, film and theatrical performances bringing these tales to life. Web users can also explore the online exhibition, the interactive web resource Shahnameh and the Kings, and download the audio gallery tour.

Epic of the Persian Kings: The Art of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh is presented with the support of Iran Heritage Foundation.


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