Irano-Jewish Hebrew Illumination (Shanameh)

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Not your Ashkenazi book illumination, these Iranian Jewish book illuminations are identified as mid- to late 17th century. Full of violence, they transpose the Jewish narrative takes shape as if drawn from the Shanameh (Book of Kings)  the classic and foundational Persian epic poem. I found these in Marc Epstein’s Skies of Parchment/Seas of Ink — Pinchas impaling Zur and Cosbi, Joshua conquering Jericho and crossing the Jordan, angels uprooting a tree in Ahashverosh’s garden, and the killing of his sons and collaborators. The  pictures illuminate the Musa Nama (Book of Moses), the Imrani Fath Nama (Book of the Conquest), and the Ardashir Nama (Book of Ahashverus). The narrative scenes take place out in the desert, out in nature. I’ll return to this point later, but for an outsider, the only visual (i.e. non-narrative) element that distinguishes these illuminations as “Jewish” is the Hebrew calligraphy.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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